The Mass that Pope Francis will celebrate at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC during his visit to the United States this fall will be held outdoors, the Catholic University of America announced today.
It will be at this Mass that Francis will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the legendary 18th-century Spanish Franciscan who spread the Catholic faith across what is now California, but who has been criticized for allegedly abusing Native Americans, pressuring them to convert, and contributing to the decimation of the indigenous culture on behalf of the Spanish crown.
The Mass Sept. 23 is scheduled for the east portico of the basilica, located in the southwest corner of the university, which donated the land for its construction. The Romanesque-Byzantine-style masonry shrine is the largest Catholic church in the United States, and is the national and patronal Catholic church of the US.
“We are overjoyed that Pope Francis will not only be coming to Washington but will be on the campus of our pontifical University,” university president John Garvey said in a statement. “I know that it will be a great thrill for our students, faculty, and staff to see the Holy Father and to know that as he looks out over the congregation during the Mass, he will also be seeing the pathways and buildings that members of our community frequent every day on their way to and from class.”
While in Washington, the pope will visit President Barack Obama at the White House and address a joint session of Congress. After DC, he travels to New York to address the United Nations and to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. Before arriving in the US, Francis will make a stop in Cuba.