Vandals defaced part of Mission San Carlos in Carmel, where the newly canonized Junipero Serra is buried, just days after he was elevated to saint status by Pope Francis.
Sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning, a statue of Serra was tipped over and splattered with paint, and the words "saint of genocide" were scrawled on one tombstone, according to police.
"Some paint was strewn in the cemetery area of the mission — at the fountain, the cross, some of the headstones," Carmel police Officer Esther Partido told KPCC.
Francis celebrated a Mass of Canonization last week during his visit to the United States.
Several American Indian groups have opposed Serra's canonization, calling him an imperialist who killed thousands of indigenous people.
Because only European gravestones were defaced and not those of Native Americans, police were investigating the incident as a hate crime, according to ABC7.
No arrests have been made, and police were not releasing any information about suspects, ABC7 reports.
Police Sgt. Luke Powell told ABC7 the mission maintains a security presence 24 hours a day and that additional security was on hand Sunday at a celebration of Serra's canonization.
By that time, much of the mess had been cleaned up, according to the Salinas Californian:
Only a few touch-up spots of the mess — predominantly paint spewed in several places — was evident by mid-afternoon at the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission.
Hundreds of visitors who arrived at 11 a.m. for the celebration to commemorate this week's canonization of missionary Junipero Serra by Pope Francis saw only mere hints of paint here and there. They heard more about the incident than they saw of the defacing.
The mission posted a message to its Facebook page expressing gratitude to the volunteers who helped clean up the paint.