.- An “unexpected” 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 “unexpected” and the Church will make “all efforts” to have the order canceled.
Catholics in the state want Fr. Borst to “stay in Kashmir and be buried here,” the bishop reported, adding that Church officials have already approached the government to explain that the missionary is present “to work for the poor.”
Mill Hill missionaries pioneered education and health care in the state in the early 19th century.
The missionary is “unfazed by the order and is hopeful he can continue” his work, Bishop Elampassery told UCA News.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said the government’s action was “myopic.”
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 “baseless,” adding that the priest has been “very careful” about his actions since 2004, when he was “threatened with a similar order.”
According to the Indian bishops' conference, Jammu and Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-majority state.