An 18th century monk who founded California's first missions moved a step closer to sainthood when he was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

The monk beatified Sunday, the Rev. Junipero Serra, founded nine missions in what is now California. But critics say he whipped and enslaved the very Native Americans he worked to convert.In California, demonstrations were held against the Franciscan's beatification, including a protest at his graveside in Carmel and the defacing of a museum in San Diego.

Serra was one of six people the pope beatified during a three-hour Mass in St. Peter's Square. In the Roman Catholic Church, beatification is one step from possible sainthood.

Some Indians claim Serra stole their lands, destroyed their culture, forced their ancestors to work in fields or on construction projects and exposed them to European diseases against which they had no resistance.

But John Paul, speaking in English, said Serra was "a shining example of Christian virtue and the missionary spirit.