25,000 gather in D.C. to witness canonization of Junipero Serra

CARMEL, Calif. (KGO) -- About 25,000 people attended the Pope's historic canonization Wednesday of the Spanish priest who established nine of the 22 missions in California.

Father Junipero Serra's elevation into sainthood was the first that's taken place on U.S. soil. It is seen as controversial by some who say Serra's missions enslaved Native Americans and spread diseases that killed much of the native population.

Others say it acknowledges Hispanic people's contributions to the church.

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The curator of Mission Dolores in San Francisco was part of the canonization ceremony and even got to meet the Pope.

"I thanked the Holy Father, for canonizing Junipero Serra. I asked him to continue to support native people throughout the world, but especially in California," said Mission Delores curator Andrew Galvan.

Pope Francis urged the crowd to spread Christ's message worldwide. A Daly City man who traveled to Washington D.C. to see the canonization says he's now inspired.

"The canonization was my first and it was unbelievable. It's fantastic. I have no words," said Luis Colom of Daly City.

Pope Francis hailed Serra as a man who "sought to defend the dignity of the native community."

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The first stop Wednesday for the Pope was a visit to the White House and a ceremony hosted by President Obama and the First Lady.

The President welcomed the Holy Father, along with the largest crowd ever on the south lawn, more than 11,0000 people.

"We see a living example of Jesus' teachings. A leader whose moral authority comes not just through words but also through deeds," Obama said.

The Pope thanked his hosts and the American people for their hospitality.

He didn't shy away from politics, addressing climate change, calling it a problem that can no longer be left to a future generation.

Pope Francis' motorcade traveled through the streets in Washington Wednesday morning. Waving from the Pope mobile, the pontiff made his way past the thousands of people who lined the route.

The Pope was traveling along a stretch of the national mall near the Washington Monument. This was the pontiff's first encounter with the American public after his invitation-only event on the White House lawn Wednesday morning.

Several people from the Bay Area have seats at the capitol to watch the pope address congress Thursday.

Thousands have been invited to watch from the capitol itself.

Palo Alto congress woman Anna Eshoo held a lottery for tickets. The winners stopped by her office Wednesday morning to pick up theirs.

"Well, I thought that it was the fairest way to give people an opportunity, to have a chance at getting tickets," Eschoo said.

"I am really excited to hear what the Pope has to say about different issues like climate change," said Meher Sandhu.

Congresswoman Eshoo was among the few representatives in congress that offered up tickets by lottery.

ABC7 News Anchor Ama Daetz is in Washington D.C. for the pope's canonization of Father Junipero Serra from California. Watch Ama's live coverage starting and join her as ABC7 News follows Pope Francis on this historic trip. Get her latest updates from Twitter and Facebook.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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