Vandals defaced a statue of Father Junipero Serra at the Carmel Mission in California, the final resting place of the missionary newly canonized by Pope Francis. Vandals struck Saturday night, damaging statues, gravesites, and signs and slathering doors with green and white paint, Carmel Police Sgt. Luke Powell tells the Salinas Californian. Photos posted on the Mission's Facebook page show someone wrote "Saint of Genocide" on a stone. The vandalism happened on the eve of a ceremony at the Mission to commemorate Serra, who was elevated to sainthood by the pope on Wednesday. The vandalism appeared to be focused on the gravesites of interred Europeans, not the graves of Native Americans, Powell said.
Serra introduced Christianity and established settlements as he marched north with Spanish conquistadores through the land that would become California. In 1769, he established his first mission in San Diego. He would go on to found numerous additional missions, including San Francisco. The missions taught religion and farming. But many Native Americans say the missions cut their ancestors off from their traditional languages and cultures, enslaved those who converted to Christianity and brought disease that led to the mass extermination of Indian populations. (Read more Pope Francis stories.)