VATICAN CITY — A Vatican commission examining the life of Father Junipero Serra, the 18th-Century Franciscan friar known as the "Apostle of California," has endorsed his beatification, and Pope John Paul II is expected to approve it sometime after Christmas, the Vatican confirmed Monday.
"A papal proclamation will be forthcoming, but probably not before Christmas," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro said.
Father Noel F. Moholy, a Franciscan from San Francisco who is Serra's chief backer in the United States, left Rome on Monday for consultations with church officials in the United States to set the date for the beatification ceremony here. It could come in July when California bishops make their regular five-year visit to the Vatican, Moholy said.
Beatification is one step short of sainthood. A 10-member board of cardinals and bishops last week accepted evidence compiled by the Franciscans that a St. Louis nun was cured of a serious neurological disorder in 1960 through Serra's intervention. Serra, who founded the California mission system, was declared "venerable," the first step toward sainthood, in 1985.