On Monday, King Felipe honoured the Spanish-Jewish community, by righting a five-century old wrong against the Jewish people.
New legislation from the Spanish Government means that the Sephardic Jews (those with Spanish ancestry) can now reclaim Spanish citizenship, after their ancestors were expelled from Spain during the Inquisition.
At Madrid’s Royal Palace, The King addressed guests from America, and other nations whose ancestors were exiled in 1492. Felipe said: “How we’ve missed you … I want to tell you today that you’ve come back home – your own home forever.”
The Spanish government is attempting to rectify the “historic mistake” of 1492, when Isabella and Ferdinand of Aragon (Catherine of Aragon’s parents) ordered some 200,000 Sephardic Jews to convert or leave the country within weeks – or face the death sentence. The Spanish Royals did this to try and unite Catholics in Spain.
Beginning as a way to ensure the committment and orthodoxy of converts from Judaism and Islam, the process intensified after the Royal Decree 522 years ago.
Many left for North Africa, Latin America, the Ottoman Empire and the Balkans, whilst others conversted, but practiced Judaism in secret. Being burned at the stake was the public punishment for refusing to convert.
“Dear Sephardim, thank you for your loyalty,” Felipe said. “Thank you for having kept, like a precious treasure, your language and your customs. They are ours too. Thank you too for making love prevail over rancour and for teaching your children to love this country.”
The law came into effect last month, giving those with Spanish-Jewish ancestry – which must be vetted by the authorities – dual citizenship. Prior to this, citizenship could be granted at the governemnt’s discretion for a Sephardic Jew, but they had to renounce their other nationality.