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Jesuit missionary statue removed from Catholic university

The statue has been moved from Saint Louis University to a nearby museum. JAMES A. FINLEY/AP/Press Association Images

A statue of a Jesuit missionary shown preaching to two Native Americans has been removed from a Catholic university in St Louis, Missouri following complaints from faculty and students.

Complaints from the Saint Louis University community about the sculpture said that, because the missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet is on an elevated platform holding a cross above his head, its message is one of white Christian supremacy, reports the Daily Mail.

An op-ed in the university’s student newspaper said last month: “The statue of De Smet depicts a history of colonialism, imperialism, racism and of Christian and white supremacy.”

The author, Ryan McKinley continued: “This statue of De Smet is the clearest message that this university sends regarding American Indians, past and present. This message to American Indians is simple: ‘You do not belong here if you do not submit to our culture and our religion.’”

University spokesman Clayton Berry said, the statue, which was created in the 1800s and titled ‘Where the Rivers Meet’, is being moved from outside a residence hall to the nearby Saint Louis University Museum of Art to join its ‘Collection of the Western Jesuit Missions’.

Not everyone, however, is happy about the move. English professor Steven Casmier said: “I am not one for pulling down statues or effacing the evidence of history – even if that history is one we would like to forget.”

“But it’s good that it’s not entirely effacing the past, and perhaps [the museum is] as good a place as any for it,” he added.

Belgian Jesuit priest Pierre-Jean De Smet took his mission to the United States in the early 1800s where he spread the Christian message to Native American tribes west of the Mississippi.