In a press conference earlier today on the airplane to the Philippines, Pope Francis announced that he intends to canonize Blessed Junípero Serra, OFM, when he comes to the United States next September.

This is great news and I am very happy about it. We are grateful to our Holy Father Pope Francis for this gift to California and the Americas.

Blessed Junípero is one of my spiritual heroes and a giant figure in the evangelization of the New World. He is one of California’s founders and he is associated with the origins of Los Angeles and its original name, El Pueblo de Nuestra Se√±ora de Los Ángeles de Porci√∫ncula, “The Town of Our Lady of the Angels of Porciuncula.”

Of the nine missions Padre Serra founded in California, two are located in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel and San Buenaventura.

It’s wonderful to think that this new saint once walked the road that is now the Hollywood Freeway and called it El Camino Real, “The King’s Highway.”

I believe Padre Serra’s canonization will help the Church’s new evangelization. It will remind us that our state and our country and all the Americas, are built on Christian foundations.

So we thank God today for this special moment of grace. We rejoice with the universal Church, with the Franciscan religious order that Father Serra belonged to, and with the Catholic faithful in the two parishes and high schools that we have named for our new saint, Blessed Junípero Serra.

There are no official plans for Pope Francis to come to California. But we are excited to hear more details from our Holy Father about his plans for this canonization.