I just want to add my two cents into this debate with this article by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. in defense of Christopher Columbus.
In Defense of Christopher Columbus the Catholic
I will end this with a couple of quotes from the above article. Please read Fr. Hardon's article as it reveals the seldomly heard truth about Columbus.
Those who criticize Columbus for destroying, in their words, the precious culture of the American Indians, ignore the grim facts of pre-Columbian American history.
A fair example is the Aztec civilization in Mexico. Seemingly advanced in other ways, the Aztec religion sank to some of the worst excesses of superstition. It is so extreme as to be almost incomprehensible to us who are familiar with the barbarous atrocities of the concentration camp and nuclear war.
When, then, we are told that Columbus destroyed the meek and peace-loving Indian culture, Columbus brought Christianity to the blood-thirsty Indians. Millions embraced the religion of Jesus Christ before the end of the 16th century and became, like the converted Aztec Juan Diego, models of humility and charity.
The real ground for animosity against Columbus is the fact that he brought the Catholic faith to the New World. Columbus believed he was specially chosen by God to bring the Gospel to a people who were living in darkness and the shadow of death.
His Book of Prophecies is a full-scale study of the Messianic prophets of the Old Law and the teaching of Christ about the duty to proclaim the Gospel to all nations.
He was a devout Catholic attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion regularly.
He was a Franciscan Tertiary who believed, like St. Francis, that the world should be converted to Christ by prayer, preaching and peaceful means.
His Journal from August 3 to October 12, 1492 is a daily record of the historic voyage from Spain to the New Indies. Day after day, he refers to Jesus and the need for divine help. He is always asking Our Lord for the light and strength he needs to realize what God had entrusted him to do – the mission of bringing the knowledge and love of Jesus and Mary to the multitudes who had not had the Good News of salvation brought to them.