Notre Dame president defends covering Columbus murals

The president of Notre Dame, the Rev. John Jenkins, told Fox News on Thursday that his decision to cover campus murals depicting Christopher Columbus wasn't intended to conceal anything. Rather, he said, the goal was to tell “the full story.”

Speaking to Fox News’ Martha MacCallum, Jenkins explained his decision to cover 12 murals in the school's iconic Gold Dome building

“We’re not concealing anything. We’re not erasing anything,” he said. “These images will be on display continuously. They won’t be on display in the main thoroughfare but in a place where the full story, the full story can be revealed”

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Jenkins said that high-resolution pictures will be taken of the murals and will be placed in an area where the full story, including what he calls “the darker side,” will be told.

He said the paintings will be concealed but can be uncovered if needed.

“It is not a criticism of Christopher Columbus, he was a great explorer, an intrepid explorer, a devout Catholic, he had his failings in blind spots as we all do, but it is an attempt to tell the story of the native peoples.”

The decision caused an uproar among many on campus, prompting the nonprofit National Italian American Foundation to send a letter to the president.

“While there remains serious scholarly debates about certain attitudes and actions of Columbus, he alone should not be burdened with the entire fate of Native Americans,” the letter read. “We do not believe the University of Notre Dame should take this unilateral action – and seek to erase history – simply to appease a small number of vocal Columbus detractors.”

Jenkins stood by his decision, however: “Our effort is to make the story of the Native Americans part of this story, as is the story of Columbus, as is the story of wonderful immigrants who have made this country as great as it is today. That’s really the intention behind it, not to erase anything but to tell the fullest story.”

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The 12 murals, created in the 1880s by Luis Gregori, were intended to encourage immigrants who had come to the U.S. during a period of anti-Catholic sentiment.

Fox News’ Martha MacCallum and The Associated Press contributed to this report.