Spanish Jesuit eagerly awaits Indian citizenship

Elderly missionary hopes for citizenship within his lifetime.

New Delhi (UCAN): A 90-year-old Spanish Jesuit, who applied for Indian citizenship 40 years ago, hopes that it does not get too late for his request to become a reality.

"My application formalities for getting Indian citizenship are now successfully completed," Jesuit Father Federico Sopena told Oct. 8.

"Now it is for the federal ministry of home affairs to grant the final yes. I do not know how long this final step will take. I hope and pray it is not posthumously granted," he added.

Father Sopena came to India in 1947, the year India became independent from British colonial rule. "I always felt like a citizen of India," he said.

He has since worked in Maharashtra state and can speak the local Hindi and Marathi languages.

The Spanish Jesuit said he applied for citizenship some 40 years ago but did not pursue it as nationalist political parties were very critical of foreign missionaries and had a strong clout with the federal government. Things have not changed very much nowadays, he added.

The Catholic Church has often had to fight the deportation of some of its foreign missionaries who have long worked in India.

In recent years, Mill Hill Father Jim Borst, a Dutch missionary working in Jammu and Kashmir state since 1963, has been served with expulsion orders.

According to the Indian constitution, citizenship can be acquired by birth, descent, registration or naturalization.

Under naturalization, a foreigner can acquire Indian citizenship by staying in the country for 12 years.

Source: UCAN

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