RELIGION

A bit after the fact, Vatican saint-makers approve Junipero Serra sainthood and pope Oks it

FILE - In this Saturday, May 2, 2015 file photo, 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, waves as he leaves Rome's Pontifical North American College. The Vatican's saint-making office Wednesday, May 6, 2015 has officially given its thumbs up for the Rev. Junipero Serra to be declared a saint, four months after Pope Francis announced he would canonize the controversial 18th-century missionary during his upcoming visit to the United States. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)

FILE - In this Saturday, May 2, 2015 file photo, 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, waves as he leaves Rome's Pontifical North American College. The Vatican's saint-making office Wednesday, May 6, 2015 has officially given its thumbs up for the Rev. Junipero Serra to be declared a saint, four months after Pope Francis announced he would canonize the controversial 18th-century missionary during his upcoming visit to the United States. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)  (The Associated Press)

The Vatican's saint-making office has officially given its thumbs up for the Rev. Junipero Serra to be declared a saint — four months after Pope Francis announced he would canonize the controversial 18th-century missionary during his upcoming visit to the United States.

Serra is hailed by the Catholic Church as a great evangelizer who established missions across California. Many Native Americans accuse him of forced conversions, enslaving converts and of helping wipe out indigenous populations as part of the European colonization machine in the Americas.

The out-of-order process that Serra's sainthood case has taken indicates that Francis personally willed the canonization and that the normal vetting process by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which ended with the Vatican announcement Wednesday, was something of a formality.