Nonagenarian Spanish Jesuit granted Indian citizenship

Father Sopena had first applied for citizenship in 1978

Mumbai: A 90-year-old Spanish Jesuit priest has become an Indian, 28 years after he applied for citizenship.

On March 17, Father Gussi Frederick Sopena, who has been working in India since 1948, surrendered his Spanish passport at the Nariman Point Spanish embassy in Mumbai, western India.

The federal Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) recently sent him a letter approving his Indian citizenship appeal.

When Father Sopena arrived in India as a 22-year-old, the country had just gained its independence from the British rule. 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 for citizenship in 1978, and again 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, notarized 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 the Jesuit priest finally took the ‘Oath of Allegiance’ at the Bandra Collector’s office on October 8, 2015.

Fr Sopena was hospitalized in February with deteriorating heart condition. He was fitted a pacemaker.

People had lost hope that he would be ever made an Indian citizen, reports

On March 15, 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 30,000 rupees fees 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 in Andheri. He met with an accident in the 1990s, leading to foot amputation. He has since been fitted with a Jaipur Foot. Everyone addresses him as Baba (father).

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