.- An âunexpectedâ government order to expel a long-serving Catholic missionary priest from India caused dismay and protest among Catholics in the region he has served.
Fr. Jim Borst, a Mill Hill missionary originally from the Netherlands, has worked in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir since 1963.
The Foreigners Registration Office has told him to leave India by the end of July, the Catholic bishops of India's news service reports.
Bishop Peter Celestine Elampassery of Jammu-Sringar said the order was âunexpectedâ and the Church will make âall effortsâ to have the order canceled.
Catholics in the state want Fr. Borst to âstay in Kashmir and be buried here,â the bishop reported, adding that Church officials have already approached the government to explain that the missionary is present âto work for the poor.â
Mill Hill missionaries pioneered education and health care in the state in the early 19th century.
The missionary is âunfazed by the order and is hopeful he can continueâ his work, Bishop Elampassery told UCA News.
The Catholic Bishopsâ Conference of India (CBCI) said the governmentâs action was âmyopic.â
Fr. Borst is principal of the Good Shepherd School in Kashmir Valley. Some Muslim groups have accused him of using the school as a cover for converting people.
The bishop dismissed the charge as âbaseless,â adding that the priest has been âvery carefulâ about his actions since 2004, when he was âthreatened with a similar order.â
According to the Indian bishops' conference, Jammu and Kashmir is Indiaâs only Muslim-majority state.