Devasahayam Pillai, 9 others declared saints by Pope Francis

Devasahayam Pillai

Vatican: Blessed Devasahayam Pillai and nine others have been elevated as saints by Pope Francis. The declaration in this regard was made by the Pope at 10 am, Vatican time, on Sunday. 

Prior to the declaration, the special religious ceremonies leading to the Canonization Mass commenced at the St Peter's Basilica.
Thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square on the occasion. 

Others who were canonised along with Lazzarus Devasahayam are Blesseds Titus Brandsma, César de Bus, Luigi Maria Palazzolo, Giustino Maria Russolillo, Charles de Foucauld, Maria Rivier, Maria Francesca,  Maria of Jesus Santocanale, Maria Domenica Mantovani.

First Indian layman to be canonised

Devasahayam Pillai, a Hindu converted to Christianity in the 18th century, is the first Indian layman to be conferred sainthood, according to an announcement by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican.

Special prayers at native place

Special prayers to mark the canionisation began at the Catholic religious places under the Kottar and Kuzhithura diocese in Tamil Nadu bordering the southern part of Kerala the other day. 

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

Celebrations are also being held at the first church named after Pillai at Chavalloorpotta in Parassala under the Neyyattinkara diocese. Dr Vincent Samuel, bishop of the Neyyattinkara diocese, will lead the pontifical prayers at 6 pm on Sunday.

Meanwhile, from 5 pm on Sunday, Dr Thomas J Netto, Archbishop of Thiruvananthapuram Latin Archdiocese, will lead the pontifical prayers at St Joseph’s Cathedral, Palayam in Thiruvananthapuram city.

Early life and renewal of faith

Pillai, who was born into a Hindu Nair family at Nattalam in Kanyakumari district, which was part of erstwhile Travancore kingdom, on 23 April, 1712, took the name "Lazarus" after embracing Christianity in 1745.

"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 in a note earlier.

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

Other Indian saints

The Vatican has so far declared four Kerala-born Indian Catholics as Saints. While Fr Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Sister Euphrasia were canonised into the league of saints by Pope Francis in 2014, Sister Alphonsa was declared a saint in 2008. The latter was the first native Indian to be canonized.

In 2019 nun Mariam Thresia was also canonised.

The first to be canonised from India was Portuguese Indian lay brother Gonsalo Garcia from Vasai, near Mumbai. He was canonised in 1862. The other two are Goan priest Joseph Vaz and Mother Teresa, who were declared saints in 1995 and 2016.

Read Deepa Soman's piece on Devasahayam Pillai's martyrdom spot Kattadimala aka Devasahayam Mount: Here's what visitors should know.

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