RELIGION

Francis lauds missionary he'll make saint on US trip despite claims of brutality to natives

  • Pope Francis, flanked by rector of the Pontifical North American College James F. Checchio, right, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, left, and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Joseph Edward Kurtz, greets the faithful as he leaves Rome's Pontifical North American College, Saturday, May 2, 2015. Pope Francis has praised the "holiness" and "zeal" of an 18th-century Franciscan missionary he'll make a saint when he visits the United States this fall but whom Native Americans in California contend brutally converted indigenous people to Christianity. Francis on Saturday praised the accomplishments and qualities of Rev. Junipero Serra during a homily at a Rome seminary training future priests from North America. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Pope Francis, flanked by rector of the Pontifical North American College James F. Checchio, right, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, left, and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Joseph Edward Kurtz, greets the faithful as he leaves Rome's Pontifical North American College, Saturday, May 2, 2015. Pope Francis has praised the "holiness" and "zeal" of an 18th-century Franciscan missionary he'll make a saint when he visits the United States this fall but whom Native Americans in California contend brutally converted indigenous people to Christianity. Francis on Saturday praised the accomplishments and qualities of Rev. Junipero Serra during a homily at a Rome seminary training future priests from North America. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis, flanked by rector of the Pontifical North American College James F. Checchio, left, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, right, and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Joseph Edward Kurtz arrives at Rome's Pontifical North American College, Saturday, May 2, 2015. Pope Francis has praised the "holiness" and "zeal" of an 18th-century Franciscan missionary he'll make a saint when he visits the United States this fall but whom Native Americans in California contend brutally converted indigenous people to Christianity. Francis on Saturday praised the accomplishments and qualities of Rev. Junipero Serra during a homily at a Rome seminary training future priests from North America. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Pope Francis, flanked by rector of the Pontifical North American College James F. Checchio, left, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, right, and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Joseph Edward Kurtz arrives at Rome's Pontifical North American College, Saturday, May 2, 2015. Pope Francis has praised the "holiness" and "zeal" of an 18th-century Franciscan missionary he'll make a saint when he visits the United States this fall but whom Native Americans in California contend brutally converted indigenous people to Christianity. Francis on Saturday praised the accomplishments and qualities of Rev. Junipero Serra during a homily at a Rome seminary training future priests from North America. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis, flanked by rector of the Pontifical North American College James F. Checchio, left, and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Joseph Edward Kurtz arrives at Rome's Pontifical North American College, Saturday, May 2, 2015. Pope Francis has praised the "holiness" and "zeal" of an 18th-century Franciscan missionary he'll make a saint when he visits the United States this fall but whom Native Americans in California contend brutally converted indigenous people to Christianity. Francis on Saturday praised the accomplishments and qualities of Rev. Junipero Serra during a homily at a Rome seminary training future priests from North America. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Pope Francis, flanked by rector of the Pontifical North American College James F. Checchio, left, and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Joseph Edward Kurtz arrives at Rome's Pontifical North American College, Saturday, May 2, 2015. Pope Francis has praised the "holiness" and "zeal" of an 18th-century Franciscan missionary he'll make a saint when he visits the United States this fall but whom Native Americans in California contend brutally converted indigenous people to Christianity. Francis on Saturday praised the accomplishments and qualities of Rev. Junipero Serra during a homily at a Rome seminary training future priests from North America. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis has praised the "holiness" and "zeal" of an 18th-century Franciscan missionary he'll make a saint when he visits the United States this fall but whom Native Americans in California contend brutally converted indigenous people to Christianity.

Francis on Saturday praised the accomplishments and qualities of Rev. Junipero Serra during a homily at a Rome seminary training future priests from North America. The pope will elevate the Spanish native to sainthood in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. in Sept. 23, during his U.S. pilgrimage.

Native Americans have held protests in California, saying instead of being honored, Serra should be criticized for what they say is his role in wiping out native populations in a brutal campaign to impose Catholicism.

Francis says Serra defended natives against "abuses by the colonizers."