Nun who has dedicated life to helping lepers denied visa to stay in India

A leprosy patient in New DelhiReuters

A 77-year-old Italian nun who has spent the last four decades caring for lepers in India has to fly home to Italy for good next month because India has refused to renew her visa.

Sister Bertilla Capra, of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Congregation, appears to have fallen victim to new rules under which visas must be renewed annually. Since arriving in India in 1970 she has been renewing her visa every five years under the previous rules.

Sister Capra, who runs the Vimala Dermatological Center in Mumbai, helping to care for leprosy patients, told UCA News: "If I do not get the visa, I will have no choice but to leave. I am so attached to the place and people here. Also, I do not have the chance to go to any other country and join some other mission. It is not easy for me to move."

According to the Bombay Archdiocese, Sister Bertilla is trying to do everything she is being asked to do but does not have time to submit all the papers. Spokesman Father Nigel Barret described it as "indirect" deportation.

There is currently a growth in persecution and violence against Christians in India.

Christians have been beaten and killed in India and the influence of hardline Hindus has increased since Modi's government was elected in the Summer of 2014, according to the charity Open Doors.

One state has banned the slaughter of cows and the consumption of beef. Cows are sacred to the maajority Hindu population in the country. 

Dr Narayan of the Indian Development Foundation, formerly the Indian Leprosy Foundation, said on The Hindu news site  that Sister Bertilla has been spearheading leprosy awareness in India, caring for leprosy patients and their children for 45 years. He wrote: "We personally know her and her motherly care and services for nearly four decades. She has been a mother, sister and a good friend to all those who visited the centre.

"The services done by her to socially ostracised leprosy patients are highly commendable. Her continuance in the service of these poor and needy patients is in public interest. Her dedication and quality of service are well-known to the society. Her continued stay in India will be a great support to the suffering humanity. We request the concerned authorities to extend her visa and allow her stay in India, so that she continues with her passion even at 77."