Displaced by World War II, Father Sopena, arrived in this country the year that India attained independence.
Mumbai (UCAN): Posted on March 29, 2016, 5:26 PM
28 years after he first applied for Indian citizenship Father Gussi Frederick Sopena finally surrendered his Spanish passport at the Nariman Point Spanish embassy in the city on Mar 17.
Two days earlier, he received a letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) approving his Indian citizenship appeal.
Displaced by World War II, Father Sopena, arrived in this country the year that India attained independence, when he was a young man of 22. He has spent his entire adult life working with NGOs and missionaries in tribal and rural areas of Thane, Nashik, Raigad and around Mumbai.
He first applied in 1978, and next in 1986; but was rejected. When he expressed his desire to die as an Indian citizen to friends, they forced him to file a third application in 2012.
However, the Bandra collector's office lost his file. The file contained original documents such as the Hindi language elementary examination passing certificate that he'd taken in 1978, notarised affidavits from two Indian citizen recommending citizenship for Sopena. Without these documents the application couldn't be processed further.
After valiant efforts the file was recovered, and Fr Sopena finally took the 'Oath of Allegiance' at the Bandra Collector's office on October 8 last year.
But when Fr Sopena's heart condition deteriorated in in February, he was hospitalised for almost a month, and had to have a pacemaker installed, his friends and well-wishers almost lost hope that his wish to die as an Indian citizen will be fulfilled.
On Mar 15, Fr Sopena received a letter from the MHA stating that he had been given initial clearance and now he would have to surrender his Spanish passport and pay a fee of Rs 30000 with the state and send some attested documents and pictures to the concerned office to proceed further for Indian citizenship.
The Catholic priest resides at Vinalaya, a home for aged Jesuits close to the Holy Family Church in Andheri. He met with an accident in the 1990s, leading to foot amputation. He has since been fitted with a Jaipur Foot.
Source: Mumbai Mirror