Pope Carries Out First Canonization on US Soil But it's quite controversial By Newser Editors and Wire Services Posted Sep 23, 2015 4:33 PM CDT 39 comments Comments Pope Francis blesses greets people inside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Sept. 23, 2015, before holding an outdoor mass to canonize Junipero Serra. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP) (Newser) – In the first canonization on US soil, Pope Francis has elevated to sainthood an 18th-century missionary who brought Catholicism to the American West Coast. Francis canonized Junipero Serra today during a Mass in Washington. Serra was a Franciscan friar who marched north from Baja California with Spanish conquistadors, establishing nine of the 21 missions in what is now California. The canonization was polarizing. Serra is revered by Catholics for his missionary work, and many Latinos in the US view his canonization as a badly needed acknowledgment of Hispanics' role in the American church. But many Native Americans say Serra enslaved converts and contributed to the spread of disease that wiped out indigenous populations. In July, Francis issued a broad apology for the church's sins against indigenous peoples.