September 17, 2015

On a recent pilgrimage to Rome with Catholic Extension, Archbishop Blase Cupich presented the burial cross of soon-to-be St. Junípero Serra to Pope Francis, who kissed and blessed it.

The pope was very moved upon seeing the cross, so he requested that it be on the altar during Serra's canonization Mass in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Serra will be the first Hispanic saint as well as the first saint to be canonized in the United States.

Catholic Extension obtained the cross--known as a Caravaca cross--from the Diocese of Monterey. Serra had brought the Caravaca cross with him when he set out from Mallorca, Spain to become a missionary in the New World. For 169 years it had been buried with Serra. During the exhumation of Serra’s body in 1943, it was found on his chest and has been in a museum at the Carmel Mission in California. The Diocese of Monterey will bring the cross to the canonization Mass next week and then it will return to the museum.

California remains mission territory for the Catholic Church, and Catholic Extension funding continues Serra's work to reach out to those on the margins and transform their lives through faith. This is a mission that Pope Francis has stressed as well.

"There’s a movement in the United States, and we are embracing Pope Francis' mission to go to the peripheries, those marginalized in the United States, and to really bring that message of hope and joy and peace," said Catholic Extension president Father Jack Wall. "We’re a very important instrument of helping lift up people to their deepest aspirations of what they want to be as people."

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