Junipero Serra Statue Vandalized At Carmel Mission Less Than A Week After Friar Was Canonized By Pope Francis

Less than a week after he was canonized by Pope Francis, a statue commemorating Franciscan Friar Junipero Serra was vandalized at the mission in California where Serra's remains are buried.

On Wednesday, despite protests from Native Americans, Pope Francis canonized the 18th century friar. On Sunday morning, trespassers broke into the Carmel Mission in Carmel, California, and vandalized various things inside the mission's courtyard, including toppling a statue of Junipero Serra, splashing paint across the mission's doors, and scrawling "terrible messages" across tombstones, the New York Times reports.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, prior to Junipero Serra's canonization in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, many Native Americans gathered to protest the canonization of a man they claim tortured and killed thousands of Native Americans while simultaneously seeking to destroy their culture. It is as of yet unclear whether the two incidents -- the protests and the vandalizing -- are connected, though among the "terrible messages" left on vandalized tombstones were the words "Saint of Genocide."

Green paint was splashed across the toppled statue of Junipero Serra, and white paint splattered in the cemetery, on the back doors of the mission, and on a crucifix and a fountain in the mission's courtyard. Employees of the Carmel Mission found the vandalized property early Sunday morning, a statement on the mission's Facebook page says, and they ask for prayers that the "people how [sic] did this take responsibility for their actions on this sacred property and that they seek reconciliation."
"We are sadden [sic] to learn this morning of vandalism inside the entrance courtyard in front of the Basilica early this morning. Staff and police are in route to investigate. Apparently a person or persons broke in, splattered paint and toppled down the courtyard statue of St. Serra and other historic statues on display."
Sunday evening, Carmel police officer Esther Partido said that the vandalism is being investigated, and though they have no suspects in the Serra statue vandalism yet, this wasn't exactly an unexpected outcome, given the controversy surrounding Junipero Serra.
"This is something we were pretty much expecting because of the recent canonization of Junipero Serra. There is a lot of controversy over his treatment of Native Americans during the time that he was here."
The vandalism -- which occurred the sometime late Saturday night, early Sunday morning -- happened just prior to a ceremony at Carmel Mission, in which Junipero Serra was to be commemorated, according to the International Business Times. Now, says Carmel police Sgt. Luke Powell, an investigation has been opened regarding the vandalized statue and property, and that it may be considered a hate crime, as the vandals targeted "specifically the headstones of people of European descent, and not Native American descent."
Before the 11 a.m. mass for Junipero Serra began, volunteers showed up in droves to the Carmel Mission to help clean the mess and restore the property around the courtyard and cemetery. By the time the hundreds of mass-goers began filing into the Basilica, only a few spots of paint remained of the previously vandalized property. They likely heard more about the incident than they saw of it. After the mass, mission officials posted a message on the mission website, thanking those volunteers who helped clean up the vandalized property.
"Thank you to all the many volunteers that came out today to help with the clean-up. You are all a blessing to this community and church. Let us remember that we live in a loving community and let us not be discouraged by such things. As St. Serra said, 'Always look forward, never back.' We are almost all cleaned up. Thank you for the outpouring of support and prayers."
It won't take long before the entire Carmel mission is restored to its previous state, and Junipero Serra's vandalized statue returned to its base where its stood for many years.

[Image Credits: Header -- Mark Wilson/Getty Images]