Pope approves sainthood for controversial US missionary

Pope Francis on Wednesday formally gave his blessing to the
canonisation of Junipero Serra, an 18th-century missionary credited with
evangelising California at a high price for native Americans.

The pontiff had already announced that he would be declaring the
Spanish-born Serra a saint at a mass in Washington DC during his visit
to the United States in September.

Opponents of the move had unsuccessfully petitioned the Vatican in a
bid to block sainthood, as they had when Serra was beatified by
John-Paul II in 1988. John-Paul subsequently made a 1992 statement in
which he formally asked for the forgiveness of native Americans for
crimes committed during California’s colonisation by European
Christians.

Serra was accused of forcing many indigenous people to live in
slave-like conditions in Catholic missions and of helping to destroy
their languages and culture.

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