SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO (CBSLA.com) — Pope Francis will canonize Father Junipero Serra during a Mass held in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

Father Serra, an 18th-century Spanish Franciscan priest, established nine missions in California, including those San Juan Capistrano, San Gabriel and San Diego.

Thousands are expected to watch the canonization Mass, which will be celebrated in Spanish, in the Great Stone Church Ruins.

To mark the occasion at Mission San Juan Capistrano, ceremonial bell-ringings will take place at 9 a.m. and noon.

While many Catholics hail the decision to make Father Serra a saint, the Juaneno band of Indians who are based in San Juan Capistrano have asked the church to change it’s mind.

According to the tribe, the Spanish priest’s actions contributed to a genocide that wiped out much of its culture.

Father Serra will become the first saint canonized in the U.S. during today’s Mass, which is set to begin at 1:15 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

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