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Edmonton statue of Pope John Paul II targeted by vandals

The Edmonton Police Service is investigating an incident of vandalism after a statue of Pope John Paul II outside a Catholic church was hit with red paint over the weekend.

A woman is suspected of painting the statue, which sits outside Holy Rosary Catholic Church on the corner of 114th Avenue and 106th Street. The statue was covered with dozens of red-painted hand prints and the former pope's name was smeared with red paint.

Police 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.

Parishioners attending Polish masses 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 added that security footage captured by the church showed 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 contain the remains of 215 children, several churches throughout Canada have been vandalized with red paint.

Some statues of Christian leaders and figures (such as Ryerson) 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 a residential school in the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan.

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