Leaders at the historic Carmel Mission in Carmel, California, are calling for peace after someone broke in and vandalized the basilica's entrance courtyard, toppling a statue of 18th century missionary Junipero Serro, just days after he was canonized by Pope Francis.
"Father Serra is now Saint Serra," Carmel Mission pastor Father Paul P. Murphy said. "His motto is always forward, never back, so that's our attitude here at the mission."
Investigators said people sneaked into the Mission Saturday night or early Sunday morning, took green paint from a cabinet inside and hurled it at the statue, as well as on nearby plaques and tombstones. One of the headstones read, “Saint of genocide.”
Volunteers cleaned up most of the damage on Sunday.
"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," the Mission posted on its Facebook page. "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.'"
The Mission also posted photos on their Facebook page from a Mass Sunday to honor St. Serra.
Church officials said services will continue as usual. They are hopeful that the vandalism won't result in permanent damage to the Mission.
Serra's canonization was not without controversy — some Native Americans say California's missions, which Serra helped found, cut their ancestors off from their traditional languages and cultures and enslaved those who converted to Christianity.
As of Monday morning, police did not have any suspects in the case.