Liam Stack, New York Times, September 28, 2015
A Catholic mission in Carmel, Calif., was vandalized on Sunday, with statues toppled and paint splashed on walls, tombstones and doors, just days after an 18th-century friar buried there, Junípero Serra, was canonized by Pope Francis, the police and officials at the mission said.
Employees of the Carmel Mission discovered the vandalism inside the basilica’s entrance courtyard and said it appeared to have been done early Sunday morning, the mission said in a statement posted to Facebook.
The vandal or vandals toppled a bronze statue, snapping it off at the base, where they etched “terrible messages,” the mission said. Green paint was poured on the statue and white paint splattered in the cemetery and on the rear doors of the church, the mission said, and “insults” were written on a number of monuments in the courtyard.
Father Serra, a Franciscan friar who founded nine missions from San Diego to San Francisco, is credited with having brought Catholicism to California when it was still under Spanish colonial rule. Pope Francis, who has praised him as “the evangelizer of the West in the United States,” canonized him on Wednesday, making him the first person canonized on American soil.
But to many Native Americans, the friar was no saint. They say he shared responsibility for the suppression of their culture and the deaths of many Native Americans in California under Spanish rule.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the police were investigating the vandalism as a hate crime, because only the graves of people of European descent were defaced, not those of Native Americans.