Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Basilica

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In the final major event of the day, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

An estimated 25,000 people were in attendance for this ticketed event. Also, 2,500 ordained priests were inside the Basilica where they were to be greeted by the pope.

Pope Francis elevated missionary Junipero Serra to sainthood during the service. Serra was a Spanish friar known for starting nine Spanish missions and bringing the Catholic faith to California in the 1700s. This was the first canonization on United States soil.

About 15,000 chairs, 3.2 miles of cable and 100 moving lights were part of what was involved in this production on the east portico of the Basilica. Event organizers said they expected about 100,000 people to be down on the National Mall watching on large screens.


Francis celebrated the Mass in Spanish. Washington's archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, said the Mass would give Francis, a native of Argentina, an opportunity to highlight the contributions of Hispanics to the nation and the church.

Many Latinos in the U.S. view the canonization of a Spanish-speaking missionary as a badly needed acknowledgment of the Hispanic history of the American church, and as an affirmation of Latinos as a core part of the U.S. Catholic future. Latinos make up about 38 percent of U.S. Catholics, but are well above the majority in several dioceses. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest U.S. diocese, is about 70 percent Latino.

However, the canonization is controversial, especially in California, where Native Americans say he wiped out indigenous populations, enslaved converts and contributed to the spread of disease.

In 1979, Pope John Paul II became the first reigning pope to visit the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Back in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI also celebrated Mass at the Basilica.

Information used from The Associated Press in this report.

Find more coverage of Pope Francis' visit to D.C. here: http://www.fox5dc.com/pope-francis-in-dc