LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) -- The California Catholic Conference of Bishops issued its first statement on the vandalism of a Father Junipero Serra statue in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, saying that Serra "made great sacrifices to defend and serve the indigenous population."
The statue of the Spanish leader who brought the first Catholic missionaries to California about 250 years ago was torn down on Saturday at Placita Olvera.
Protesters who support getting rid of Serra's statue say he forced California Native Americans to convert to Catholicism and stay at his missions while destroying their tribes and their culture.
The California Catholic Conference of Bishops said in response that Serra actually fought to have Native Americans treated with respect.
"The historical truth is that Serra repeatedly pressed Spanish authorities for better treatment of the Native American communities," the statement read. "He made great sacrifices to defend and serve the indigenous population. If that is not enough to legitimize a public statue in the state that he did so much to create, then virtually every historical figure from our nation's past will have to be removed for their failings measured in the light of today's standards."
Another statue of Serra was recently brought down in San Francisco and there is a debate ongoing about a Serra statue in Ventura.
Serra was canonized by Pope Francis in September 2015.
for more features.