St Junipero Serra is credited with bringing Christianity to California

Los Angeles officials say vandals have defaced a statue of Fr Junipero Serra, the 18th century missionary canonized by Pope Francis.

The Los Angeles Times reports someone last week painted St Junipero’s hands red and scrawled “murderer” on the statue near the San Fernando Mission.

Calls and emails from the newspaper to the archdiocese requesting comment were not returned Sunday. The Times says the defacement of the statue has since been cleaned up.

Pope Francis elevated Serra to sainthood two years ago. The Spanish friar brought the Catholic faith to California and founded several missions.

Many Native Americans say the missions cut their ancestors off from their traditional languages and cultures and enslaved those who converted to Christianity.

Other statues of Serra across the state have also been defaced in recent years.