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    WHEREAS, in 1492 Christopher Columbus obtained permission and financial support from the King and Queen of Spain to sail west across the Atlantic Ocean in search of new trade routes; and

    WHEREAS, on Oct. 12 of that year, Columbus’ expedition landed in what is today the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, immediately erecting a cross and naming the island San Salvador, in honor of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World; and 

    WHEREAS, Columbus established a policy that his men were to treat the native people in the new world with respect, pursuant to which he sentenced to death men who disobeyed this order, which resulted in his own arrest and return to Spain in chains; and

    WHEREAS, the 16th-century historian Bartolomé de las Casas, who exposed terrible abuses of native peoples, defended Columbus’s motivations, saying, “I knew him well and I know his intentions are good”; and

    WHEREAS, on the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas, Pope Leo XIII reflected on Columbus’s strong Catholic faith, writing, “It is fitting that we should confess and celebrate in an especial manner the will and designs of the Eternal Wisdom, under whose guidance the discoverer of the New World placed himself with a devotion so touching,” and ordered the celebration of solemn Mass of the Most Holy Trinity in honor of the occasion; and

    WHEREAS, U.S. President Benjamin Harrison similarly commemorated the anniversary by declaring a national Columbus holiday that year to provide “expressions of gratitude to Divine Providence for the devout faith of the discoverer and for the divine care and guidance which has directed our history and so abundantly blessed our people”; and

    WHEREAS, following this anniversary of Columbus’s voyage, memorials and celebrations in honor of Columbus became popular in the United States as ways to celebrate the Catholic history of the Western Hemisphere and to counteract anti-Catholicism in the United States; and

    WHEREAS, at the height of the nativist and anti-Catholic sentiment of the late 19th century, Columbus was chosen as the Order’s namesake because he was one of the few Catholics considered a hero of American history, and because the founding members of the Order wished to show that faithful Catholics can also be patriotic American citizens; and

    WHEREAS, in 1906 the Knights of Columbus advocated for the construction of a monument in Washington, D.C., in honor of Columbus and, when it was completed in 1912, President William Howard Taft presided at the dedication ceremony, which was attended by several foreign ambassadors, thousands of Knights of Columbus, and thousands more spectators, leading to the observation that “every possible vantage point was filled”; and 

    WHEREAS, in the following decades, several states established holidays in honor of Columbus and, following the strong urging of the Knights of Columbus and several civic organizations, the United States declared Columbus Day a federal holiday in 1937; and 

    WHEREAS, the strong Catholic identity associated with Columbus Day led the Ku Klux Klan to denounce the celebration of the holiday as a “papal fraud” and to commit acts of violence and intimidation, including burning a cross at a Knights of Columbus celebration of Columbus Day in Pennsylvania; and

    WHEREAS, to further accomplish its anti-Catholic goals in the United States, the Klan, and other nativist forces, initiated a campaign to disparage Columbus, claiming that he was not a hero, but rather just another foreign conqueror who was guilty of genocide, slavery, and oppression; and

    WHEREAS, in recent years, these claims have been repeated, with misinformation about Columbus, leading to the elimination of favorable references to Columbus and the removal of monuments commemorating him, many of which were first established by Catholic immigrants seeking to establish their place in American society; and

    WHEREAS, the Knights of Columbus includes many members of Native American and First Nation tribes among its ranks and works with these brother Knights and their families to address the challenges faced by indigenous communities, as well as to develop specific programs promoting the unique traditions of their Catholic faith; and

    WHEREAS, in the spirit of Columbus, who sought to partner with the peaceful indigenous people he encountered, the Knights of Columbus is sharing the culture of Native American and First Nation communities through its documentary Enduring Faith: The Story of Native American Catholicism, promoting devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and establishing a shrine dedicated to St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first indigenous American saint. 

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Knights of Columbus remains steadfast in its support of Christopher Columbus as our namesake, state and federal holidays established in his honor, and public monuments and commemorations dedicated to his life and historical contributions; and

    FURTHER RESOLVED, that we will, without diminishing the unique contributions of native peoples to the remarkable cultural tapestry of the Americas, encourage our public officials to preserve the intended spirit of the public holiday tradition with its cultural and patriotic implications, and not allow it to be undermined or diminished by neglect, dilution, or replacement; and

    FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call on state and local leaders to establish separate monuments, or other commemorations, that properly honor the contributions and centuries-long history of the native people of North America; and 

    FURTHER RESOLVED, that we commit our prayers for greater civility, peace, and understanding between all peoples to the intercession of our Blessed Mother, Patroness of the Americas, and namesake of Columbus’ lead ship on that historic 15th century journey.


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