Portugal citizenship offer to repair medieval expulsion of Jews

Portugal's parliament unanimously passed a law Friday offering citizenship to descendants of Jews persecuted and ordered expelled in the 15th century.

The legislation sought to repair the effects of a decree issued in 1497 by Portugal's king Manuel I that ordered all Jews out of the country unless they converted to Christianity.

A deputy in Portugal's ruling coalition, Jose Ribeiro e Castro, called the law's passage a "historic day".

"We want to once again welcome all those who never should have had to leave," he said.

The expulsion order for Portugal's Jews -- followed by a 1506 massacre of 2,000 converted Jews in Lisbon, then a Portuguese Inquisition as fearsome for those deemed non-Christian as the Spanish one -- was long seen as a black mark in the European country's history.

In 1989, then-president Mario Soares asked forgiveness from Jews for the persecutions their forebears suffered in Portugal.

The Jews who departed Portugal in the 15th and 16th centuries dispersed to other countries, including northern Europe, northern Africa, and to Turkey and Brazil.

Neighbouring Spain, which lived a similar history, is also trying to make up for its medieval persecution of Jews. Madrid has said it, too, is considering a citizenship offer to descendants of its ousted Jews.