A 35-foot-tall cross in Riverside, Calif.–which was dedicated to St. Junipero Serra—was vandalized on Friday night, according to police.
Fox Los Angeles reported that the suspects, who were identified by police as “Native Americans” in their 20s, employed an ax and spray paint in the attempt to destroy the cement-and-steel structure.
“Serra was a pedophile murderer,” one message on the cross read.
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Archbishop José H. Gomez, who serves in Los Angeles, wrote a column in Angelus News about the recent assaults on the statues in other cities and states. He said the church is “taking increased security precautions” and will “unfortunately, probably have to relocate some statues to our beloved saint or risk their desecration.”
The Fox report said that the statues depicting Serra have been targeted due to historians claiming that his legacy includes “slavery and the genocide of indigenous people.”
Gomez wrote that he understands the “deep pain” being expressed by “some native peoples in California.”
“But I also believe Fray Junípero is a saint for our times, the spiritual founder of Los Angeles, a champion of human rights, and this country’s first Hispanic saint. I was privileged to celebrate his canonization Mass with Pope Francis in 2015. I rely on his intercession in my ministry, and I am inspired by his desire to bring God’s tender mercy to every person,” he wrote.
The cross that was vandalized is on top of Mount Rubidoux in Riverside. The vandalism has taken place while many statues and monuments across the U.S. have been targeted by violent protesters over the death of George Floyd in police custody.
The protests have been focused on race and the range of targets has been expanded from Confederate generals and slave owners. The new targets include Abraham Lincoln and art depicting a European-style Jesus.
Serra statues have been the focus of agitators. VOA News reported that earlier this month, a statue depicting the saint was toppled in San Francisco and another near Los Angeles’ Union Station.
Rick Cuevas, a disenrolled member of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians, said in an open letter to Pope Francis, that Serra’s mission “triggered a collapse of our indigenous societal structure and way of life and set into motion the atrocities and hardships that our people endured for nearly two centuries.”