Thiruvananthapuram/Kanyakumari, May 15 (PTI) The canonisation of Devasahayam Pillai, who embraced Christianity in the 18th century, by Pope Francis at the Vatican was on Sunday celebrated in some Latin Catholic churches in the southern States of India – Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
While Devasahayam was being declared a saint by the Pope, simultaneous celebrations were held at a church in Kattadimalai in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu where he is believed to have been killed in 1752.
The celebration and special prayers at Kattadimalai were attended by hundreds of people.
Similar special prayers were also held later in the day at the St Joseph’s Latin Catholic Cathedral in Thiruvananthapuram.
Devasahayam is the first Indian lay man to be canonised.
He was recommended for the process of Beatification by the Vatican in 2004, at the request of the Kottar diocese, Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council and the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India.
Pope Francis canonised Blessed Devasahayam Pillai, along with nine others, during a Canonisation Mass in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican this morning.
A miracle attributed to Devasahayam Pillai was recognised by Pope Francis in 2014, clearing the path to his canonisation in 2022.
With the completion of the process, Pillai, who took the name “Lazarus” after embracing Christianity in 1745, became the first lay person from India to become a saint.
Devasahayam was born on April 23, 1712 as Neelakanta Pillai into a Hindu Nair family, at Nattalam in Kanyakumari district, which was part of the erstwhile Travancore kingdom.
He was an official in the court of Travancore’s Maharaja Marthanda Varma when he was instructed into the Catholic faith by a Dutch naval commander.
“Lazarus” or “Devasahayam” in Malayalam, translates to “God is my help”.
“While preaching, he particularly insisted on the equality of all people, despite caste differences. This aroused the hatred of the higher classes, and he was arrested in 1749. After enduring increasing hardship, he received the crown of martyrdom when he was shot on 14 January 1752,” a note prepared by the Vatican earlier had said.
Sites linked with his life and death are in Kottar Diocese in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.
Devasahayam was declared Blessed on December 2, 2012, in Kottar, 300 years after his birth. PTI HMP KH NVG
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