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Spanish king welcomes Sephardic Jews back 'home,' says Spain missed them

SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, SPAIN - JANUARY 28:  Prince Felipe of Spain attends the inauguration of Palmetum Santa Cruz de Tenerife on January 28, 2014 in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain. The Palmetum Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a botanical garden of 120,000 m2 on the Canary Islands and has the largest collection of palm trees in Europe. (Photo by Jorge Rey/Getty Images)

SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, SPAIN - JANUARY 28: Prince Felipe of Spain attends the inauguration of Palmetum Santa Cruz de Tenerife on January 28, 2014 in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain. The Palmetum Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a botanical garden of 120,000 m2 on the Canary Islands and has the largest collection of palm trees in Europe. (Photo by Jorge Rey/Getty Images)  (2014 Getty Images)

Spanish King Felipe VI has presided over a ceremony welcoming a new citizenship law for descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled five centuries ago, saying Spain had missed them.

Addressing representatives of Spanish Jewish associations and political leaders Monday in Madrid's Royal Palace, Felipe said that Sephardic Jews — as those who once lived in the Iberian peninsula are known — were now back "at home" in Spain.

Justice Minister Rafael Catala said that since the law was passed Oct. 1 there have been nearly 600 citizenship applications and 10,000 information requests.

In October, Spain also granted citizenship to 4,302 people whose Jewish ancestors fled after being told in 1492 to convert to Catholicism or go into exile ahead of the Spanish Inquisition that saw many Jews burned at the stake.

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