Statement by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson on the 500th Anniversary of the death of Christopher Columbus.
The Knights of Columbus today [May 20, 2006] remembers the death of Christopher Columbus. It was Columbus who opened the Americas to Christianity, and we pause to remember why it is that we bear his name.
At the time of our Order’s founding, anti-Catholic sentiment in the United States continued to marginalize Catholics and Catholic immigrants simply because of their faith.
As a result, in 1882, our founder, Father Michael J. McGivney, and our first Supreme Knight, James Mullen, chose the name “Knights of Columbus” because the explorer was a Catholic who was nonetheless universally regarded as a national hero.
By taking the name of Columbus, the Knights were able to remind the entire country of the Catholic roots of the New World, and to highlight the fact that faithful Catholics could also be good citizens, a fact that few would question today.
We ask God to grant eternal rest to Christopher Columbus, and take pride in the fact that in naming our organization for him, we helped to establish the now widely-accepted principle that every nation should always accept and honor the contributions of all its citizens, whatever their background, and wherever they come from.