Pope Francis will proclaim first Indian layman, Devasahayam Pillai a saint on Sunday

Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Devasahayam Pillai during a canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Sunday, Church officials said.

According to an announcement made by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican, Devasahayam Pillai, who was born a Hindu but later converted to Christianity in the 18th century, would become the first Indian layman to be granted sainthood. 

On Sunday, at 10 am Vatican time on Sunday, Devasahayam Pillai will be canonized and given the title of saint. During the ceremony, Pope Francis was also going to canonize nine others.

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Pillai, who was born into a Hindu Nair family in Nattalam in Kanyakumari district on 23 April 1712, adopted the name “Lazarus” after embracing Christianity in 1745. Nattalam was located in the Kanyakumari district, which was a part of the ancient kingdom of Travancore.

“Lazarus” or “Devasahayam” in the local language, means “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 hardships, he received the crown of martyrdom when he was shot on 14 January 1752”, the Vatican had said earlier.

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He was declared Blessed on December 2, 2012, in Kottar, 300 years after his birth. He belongs to the Latine rite Church.

In connection with the canonization, special prayers began at the Catholic religious places under the Kottar and Kuzhithura diocese in Tamil Nadu bordering the southern part of Kerala on Thursday.

Sites linked with his life and martyrdom are in Kottar Diocese, in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.

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Celebrations are also being held at the first church named after Pillai at Chavalloorpotta in Parassala under the Neyyattinkara diocese.

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