Arts & Entertainment

Temecula artist crafts a rosary for Pope Francis on US visit where he'll canonize Junipero Serra

Courtesy Arasely Rios
Courtesy Arasely Rios
Courtesy Arasely Rios


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Pope Francis arrives in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, he'll perform a mass of canonization for Junipero Serra. He'll be presented with a one-of-a-kind rosary designed and handcrafted by a Temecula artist, Arasely Rios.

The 18th century Franciscan brought the first Catholic missions to California. Some Native Americans oppose his sainthood, claiming the missions helped destroy indigenous culture.

Rios said that she thinks it was divine providence that led to her being chosen to make this rosary for the pope. She got the call from the religious community at the Carmel Mission.

Rios has been making rosaries since she was 8 years old.

"I fell in love with the craft behind it. So when I got the call to make a rosary for the pope, I immediately thought, 'OK, I can't make him a rosary that is standard.' And I decided, 'OK, it's got to be unique, but it's also got to be humble.'"

The rosary has 13 main beads, plus other accent beads, and uses a stone called bronzite, Rios said.

"It's like a brownish bronze color, which actually mimics the color of the Franciscan habits that they wear today," Rios said. "The metals are solid bronze, and they're replicas of the Caravaca cross that St. Serra was wearing when they exhumed his body, and was the cross that he would wear."

Another idea came to Rios through prayer, she said — one that she'd never seen done before.

"I took one of the bead's caps, one of the bronze caps that I use to embellish the rosary, and inside of it I placed a crystal. And you don't really see it unless light hits it, and it's just symbolic of the light within us all," Rios said.

She overnighted the completed rosary to the person who commissioned her, who is going to be present at the canonization, where they will meet the pope and give him the gift, Rios said.

Rios said she'd love to see a picture of the pope with the rosary, though she doesn't know if there will be a camera at the ready.

"Honestly, I would love for him to pray with the rosary. That's really what I'm hoping for. That when he takes it back home, that he sits with it, and prays with it," Rios said.

Rios said that she sees both sides of the controversy around Father Serra. Rios herself is Native American, Latin and Spanish.

"I'm proud to be both. And I hope that I can represent unity, you know — a melding of two cultures that can respect each other, that can acknowledge the bad, and yet embrace the good," Rios said.