Blessed Junipero Serra's Life to Be Celebrated by Pope at Rome's Pontifical North American College

‘We Are Joyful to Welcome Pope Francis to Our Home,’ PNAC’s Rector Tells Press

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Awareness to the soon-to-be canonized saint, Blessed Juniper Sera, will take place in Rome’s Pontifical North American College this May, and the Holy Father is expected to participate.

“This will have an important impact not just for Catholics in the United States, but also for making known this great figure of evangelization in the world,” said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America in a briefing this morning in the Holy See Press Office to discuss the May 2 Day of Reflection and Prayer on the theme “Fra Junípero Serra: Apostle of California, and Witness to Sanctity.” 

The event is being organized by the Pontifical North American College (PNAC) and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

In addition to the cardinal, those speaking at today’s conference included Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office; Dr. Guzman Carriquiry Lecour, secretary In charge of the Vice-Presidency of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; Capuchin Father Vincenzo Criscuolo, General Relator of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; and Msgr. James Francis Checchio, rector of the Pontifical North American College.

Pope Francis, Fr. Lombardi confirmed, will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra and celebrate the canonization at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on September 23 during his Apostolic Visit to the United States.

Blessed Serra was a 16th-century Spanish Franciscan known for having founded the first Catholic missions in Baja, California. St. John Paul II beatified the evangelist on Sept. 25, 1998.

The Holy Father, during his return flight from Manila to Rome at the end of his Apostolic Visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines this January, said he would have liked to have gone to California for the canonization, but due to time constraints, would instead canonize the evangelist in Washington D.C.

Prior to the Pontiff’s trip to the states, the NAC is excited to welcome the Holy Father, stressed its rector, who noted it has been some 35 years since a Pontiff has visited their campus.

Monsignor Checchio told ZENIT that the American cardinals based in Rome, such as Cardinals Raymond Burke, Edwin Frederick O’Brien, James Harvey, and James Francis Stafford, and possibly Cardinal Wuerl of Washington are expected to attend the study day.

Cardinal Ouellet and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles also will be there, he said, adding that a Spanish and Mexican cardinal have been invited, but their presence is not confirmed.

In his remarks, Cardinal Ouellet gave an overview of the program of the study day dedicated to Blessed Serra on May 2, which is published at the end of this article, and pointed out that there will be several interventions giving information about the evangelist, particularly by the Monsignor Checchio; Prof. Guzman Carriquiry; and Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.

A highlight, following the morning discourses, will be when Pope Francis presides over Mass for the NAC’s seminarians and staff.

After the Mass, the day will close with a lunch, in which the Pontiff will not partake, Msgr. Checchio confirmed to ZENIT.

Cardinal Ouellet highlighted that this study is significant for it draws attention to evangelization—a key priority of Pope Francis–and «the sanctity of evangelization,» especially in America.

«While Blessed Serra is well known in the US, he may not be well known elsewhere,» the cardinal noted, adding that for this reason, this day is designed to bring awareness to the life, mission, and virtue of Blessed Serra.

He also noted it makes sense to hold such a day prior to the Pope’s visit to the States in September, to deepen the world’s understanding of all the evangelist has done and the miracles attributed to his intercession.

Joy for NAC, the States

‘We have a particular joy to welcome Pope Francis to our home,” Monsignor Checchio said.

Speaking on behalf of NAC and his fellow Americans, the seminary’s rector noted that the Pope’s upcoming visits to the NAC in May and the States in September will have a great impact on the country and its local dioceses.

“The Holy Father will no doubt see an active and vibrant Church in America,” he said, noting how excited the nation’s faithful are for Francis’ visit.

“The Pope’s message of mercy,” Msgr. Checchio, “has really struck a chord with the people of our nation, regardless of their religious affiliation.”

Turning to NAC itself, he noted how the Holy Father’s attention to the needy has further inspired its seminarians, staff, and faculty members.

Founded in 1859 and currently a home to 250 students from some 101 dioceses in the United States, the Pontifical North American College is the national seminary for the United States in Rome and is located on the Janiculum Hill.

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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