Priest in Sorel-Tracy faces deportation to Congo

Churchgoers in Sorel-Tracy may lose one of their last two priests because Father Odon-Charles Miense could be deported to his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ottawa refuses to renew visa for Father Odon-Charles Miense

Citizenship and Immigration Canada demanded Father Odon-Charles Miense get a work visa, even though the department website says priests are exempt from visa restrictions. (Radio-Canada)

Churchgoers in Sorel-Tracy may lose one of their last two priests because Father Odon-Charles Miense could soon be deported to his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Miense has emptied his shelves and is prepared to leave at a moment's notice after his visa expired last December, and Ottawa refused to renew his permit.

"I have no papers.. we are waiting, so it's not too reassuring that a response hasn't come," said Miense.

Miense first came to Quebec to study agriculture and in May, he began working as a priest in Sorel-Tracy.

In August, Citizenship and Immigration Canada demanded Miense get a work permit, even though on the department's own website, it says priests are exempt from such requirements.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada also rejected Miense's application to extend his stay because he did not provide enough proof he intended to leave the country at the end of his eight year term.

"I did not come to settle here. I first came to study, then to render my services in a church as a priest," said Miense.

The chief priest of the pastoral team in Sorel-Tracy, Jean-Marc Beaudet, said that Miense has a mandate from the bishop to work there. 

After a priest was arrested in a child pornography case in March, the diocese was glad to bring in the services of the Congolese father two months later.

"We feel abandoned. I do not think the immigration department understands the situation for the Church in Quebec," said Beaudet.

Given the shortage of clergymen in Quebec, churches are increasingly using foreign priests, especially from Africa. 

"I saw some notable contradictions there," said Miense.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada would not comment on Miense's file.

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