WASHINGTON – The first pope from the Americas is ready to elevate to sainthood an 18th-century missionary who brought Catholicism to California.
Pope Francis plans to canonize Junipero (hoo-NEE-perr-oh) Serra during a Mass on Wednesday outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. It's the first time that a pope will elevate someone to sainthood on U.S. soil.
The pope announced in January that Serra would be canonized. The Franciscan friar from Spain is revered by Catholics for his missionary work. Francis fast-tracked Serra's canonization by eliminating the need to show proof of two miracles.
Serra's canonization is controversial, especially in California, where Native Americans say he wiped out indigenous populations, enslaved converts and spread disease.
Francis will celebrate the Mass in Spanish.