TUCSON, Ariz. — A Tucson-area icon has moved a step closer to sainthood.
Father Eusebio Kino, a 17th century Italian Jesuit missionary who mapped and explored the region that would one day become the southwest United States and northern Mexico, was venerated by Pope Francis July 11.
The Pope made the announcement July 11, according to Catholic News Agency.
Francis praised Kino's "heroic virtue" in making him one of five candidates considered for sainthood.
Kino was born in 1645 in northern Italy, ordained in 1677 and arrived in Mexico in 1681. He traveled the regions that later became Sonora, Arizona and California and baptized more than 4,000 people.
Kino Parkway is named after him, and a statue of Kino was placed at the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. in 1965.
According to BBC News, a venerated sainthood candidate could be beatified if a verified miracle is attributed to prayers to a candidate made after death.
Following beatification, the final step is canonization, which typically requires a second verified miracle.