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 October 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 set forth a policy that his men were to treat the native people in the new world with respect and 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’ motivations saying, “…I knew him well and I know his intentions are good;” and
WHEREAS, on the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas, Pope Leo XIII reflected on Columbus’ 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’ 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 speak out against 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 believed the explorer symbolized 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, DC 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 interested spectators leading to the observation that “every possible vantage point was filled;” and
WHEREAS, several states began establishing 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 even burn 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, began the trend of disparaging Columbus suggesting he was not a hero of western history, but rather just another foreign conqueror who was guilty of genocide, slavery, and oppression; and
WHEREAS, in recent years, these claims have been repeated leading to the propagation of further misinformation about Columbus and actions to abolish references to Columbus and remove monuments and commemorations to Columbus’ life – many of which were first established by Catholic immigrants seeking to establish their place in American culture and fight discrimination.
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 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.