The Archdiocese of St. Louis in Missouri defended the statue of King Louis IX of France located in front of St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park as praying Catholics clashed with protesters seeking to tear it down because the king persecuted Jews.
A change.org petition seeking to change the name of St. Louis the city and remove the king’s statue says since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, America has been undergoing a new civil rights movement which includes removing the statues of “racists, slave masters, and Confederates from public spaces.”
“In 2017 St. Louis removed the Confederate Monument in Forest Park after protests. In 2020 the statue of Christopher Columbus was removed from Tower Grove Park. It is now time for St. Louis to take the bold step to remove the statue of King Louis IX from Forest Park and rename the city,” it says.
“For those unfamiliar with King Louis IX he was a rabid anti-semite who spearheaded many persecutions against the Jewish people. Centuries later Nazi Germany gained inspiration and ideas from Louis IX as they embarked on a campaign of murderous genocide against the Jewish people. Louis IX was also vehemently Islamophobic and led a murderous crusade against Muslims which ultimately cost him his life.”
The petition, which had nearly 1,000 required signatures as of Monday evening, argues that naming the city after the king while keeping a monument to him is disrespectful to both Muslims and Jews.
Louis IX is the only king of France to be canonized in the Catholic Church. The devoted Catholic once ordered the burning of some 12,000 manuscript copies of the Talmud and other Jewish books.
In a statement on Sunday, the Archdiocese of St. Louis defended the king as a saint who reverenced God and did much to care for the poor.
“The history of the statue of St. Louis, the King is one founded in piety and reverence before God, and for non-believers, respect for one’s neighbor. The reforms that St. Louis implemented in French government focused on impartial justice, protecting the rights of his subjects, steep penalties for royal officials abusing power, and a series of initiatives to help the poor. King Louis IX’s renowned work in charity helped elevate him to Sainthood,” the archdiocese said.
“His daily suppers were shared with numerous beggars, whom he invited to the royal table. On many evenings, he would not let them leave before he washed their feet. He personally paid to feed more than 100 poor Parisians every day. His care for the sick was equally moving; St. Louis frequently ministered to lepers. He also created a number of hospitals, including one for the blind and another for ex-prostitutes. For Catholics, St. Louis is an example of an imperfect man who strived to live a life modeled after the life of Jesus Christ. For St. Louisans, he is a model for how we should care for our fellow citizen, and a namesake with whom we should be proud to identify.”
Protesters were encouraged to focus their energy on “programs and policies that will dismantle racism and create a more equal society for all races and religions” instead of tearing down statues.
“The Archdiocese of St. Louis is encouraged by the winds of change that are at hand, but believes that this energy of change should be focused on programs and policies that will dismantle racism and create a more equal society for all races and religions. As Catholics, we believe that each person—no matter their race, religion, background or belief—is created in the image and likeness of God. As such, all should be treated with love, respect and dignity. We should not seek to erase history, but recognize and learn from it, while working to create new opportunities for our brothers and sisters,” the archdiocese said.
In a clash with protesters at the site of the statue over the weekend, Fr. Stephen Schumacher insisted that Louis was good and had “nothing to do with Africans,” since during the Crusades he fought against Arabs, who had conquered North Africa.
Other Catholics who defended the statue like Anna Kalinowski told KMOX: "He stood for the truth, he stood for goodness and beauty which are attributes of God. That's why he's a saint. It was a rough time, the medieval times were difficult and he went on the crusades to help oppressed Christians in the holy lands and to spread the truth of God."