Statue of Pope John Paul II outside Edmonton Catholic church painted red

The Edmonton Police Service is investigating the vandalization of a statue of Pope John Paul II outside a Catholic church.

Police investigating after statue covered in red hand prints, name smeared

A statue of Pope John Paul II, who was elected as Pope in 1978, located outside an Edmonton church was painted red Saturday night, police say. (Tricia Kindleman/CBC)

The Edmonton Police Service is investigating after a statue of Pope John Paul II outside a Catholic church was vandalized with red paint late Saturday.

A woman is suspected of painting the statue, which sits outside Holy Rosary Catholic Church on the corner of 114th Avenue and 106th Street, police said in a news release Sunday.

The base of the statue had dozens of red-painted hand prints and the former pope's name was smeared with red paint.

Police don't have an age or description of the suspect, but say the incident occurred shortly after 11 p.m. Saturday.

The hate crimes and violent extremism unit has been notified of the vandalism, police said.

The remains of 215 children were found on the grounds of former residential school in B.C. a month ago. Since then, people have painted or torn down statues of Christian leaders and figures of colonialism in Canada. (Tricia Kindleman/CBC)

Parishioners attending Polish masses Sunday were shocked when they saw the statue, said Andrzej Makarewicz, first vice-president of the Canadian Polish Congress Alberta Society.

"This is a hate crime," he said, adding that the vandalization hurts the community.

Makarewicz was especially disturbed by security footage captured by the church that showed at least two cars whose drivers witnessed the vandalization but did nothing.

Since last month's discovery of a burial site adjacent to the former Kamloops Indian Residential School that preliminary findings indicate contain the remains of 215 children, several churches throughout Canada have been vandalized with red paint.

Some statues of Christian leaders and figures who played roles in Canada's colonial past have been painted red or torn down by demonstrators.

The incident in Edmonton Saturday night comes days after 751 unmarked graves were found near the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan.

Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential school and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.