Pope Statue Vandalised With ‘Bloody Handprints’ After Indigenous Remains Discovered
Police in Canada have launched an investigation after a statue of Pope John Paul II was found covered in red handprints following the discovery of the remains of hundreds of indigenous people.
News that the remains of 215 indigenous children, some as young as three years old, were found on the old grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia came last month, while a further 751 were uncovered more recently at the former Marieval (Cowessess) Residential School in Saskatchewan.
The discoveries appear to have spurred the vandalism of the statue, which is located at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Edmonton, Canada.
People attending the Catholic church discovered red, blood-like handprints on the statue on Sunday morning, June 27, with red footprints tracking to the door of the church and stuffed animals placed around the statue’s base.
Police investigating the situation said a female suspect was seen vandalising the statue at around 11.00pm local time on Saturday evening. In an email cited by the Edmonton Sun, police spokesperson Scott Pattison said the EPS Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit has been notified.
He continued: ‘The file will remain with the division until HCVEU has had an opportunity to properly assess this situation.’
The incident is reminiscent of vandalism at St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral in Saskatoon last week, when red handprints and the words ‘we were children’ were painted on the doors.
Archbishop Richard Smith, of the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, said he was saddened by the vandalism in a statement responding to the discovery of the paint.
At a time when our country is acutely aware of the need for reconciliation with the Indigenous Peoples of this land, it is helpful to recall the words with which Pope John Paul II, during his 1987 visit to Fort Simpson, strongly affirmed the inherent goodness of Indigenous culture and traditions, and expressed solidarity with the First Nations, Metis and Innu Peoples in defense of their rights: ‘my coming among you looks back to your past in order to proclaim your dignity and support your destiny.’
Smith went on to say that the Holy Rosary parish and the Archdiocese of Edmonton ‘stand with the Indigenous Peoples in this moment of profound sorrow. With them, we lament the sad legacy of residential schools and look forward to the healing of our relationships.’
The Canadian government has apologised for the deaths, but following the discovery of the remains Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau called on Pope Francis to also make an apology.
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