Pope Francis canonized an 18th-century missionary during his U.S. visit on Wednesday, amid accusations that the newly named saint abused Native Americans. Vanessa Johnston reports.
It was one of the most controversial acts of his U.S. visit. Pope Francis presiding over the canonization of 18th-century Spanish missionary Junipero Serra. ...at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) POPE FRANCIS SAYING: "Today we remember one of those witnesses who testified to the joy of the Gospel in these lands." But critics say Serra's legacy is stained in blood -- That when he arrived in California, he essentially imprisoned Native Americans and had them beaten... ...as he tried to indoctrinate them in Roman Catholic ways. Corine Fairbanks is director of the American Indian Movement in Southern California. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CORINE FAIRBANKS, DIRECTOR OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN MOVEMENT, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CHAPTER, SAYING: "With the pope stating that this person is someone saintly, or someone to be looked up to, or even revered or prayed to is giving the international message that what happened to California native people, what happened to indigenous people...was by divine right. That it was ok." While Pope Francis insisted Serra had defended Native Americans...he also appeared to acknowledge some criticisms. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) POPE FRANCIS, SAYING; "Junipero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people." The ceremony was the first canonization ever carried out on U.S. soil. Next stop for the pope -- an address to the U.S. Congress on Thursday.