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Pope Francis: I’ll Make American Missionary a Saint on U.S. Visit

Pope Francis makes first visit to Philippines 1:57

Pope Francis promised Thursday to canonize an 18th century missionary during his visit to the United States in September.

The pontiff said he would make a saint out of Junipero Serra, a missionary who brought Christianity to the western United States in the 1700s.

“He was the evangelizer of the Western United States,” Francis told reporters on the papal plane as he flew from Sri Lanka to the Philippines as part of his Asia tour.

He is scheduled to visit Philadelphia on his visit, but is also expected to visit New York to address the United Nations and Washington to meet President Barack Obama. Serra, who was born on the Spanish island of Majorca in 1713, went to the Americas in the middle of the 18th century and led one of the first Franciscan missions in California, Reuters reported.

The pontiff also spoke out about freedom of expression, saying in response to the Charlie Hebdo terror attack that "one cannot make fun of faith" and that anyone who throws insults can expect a "punch."

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- Claudio Lavanga and Alastair Jamieson