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Thursday, December 02, 2021

Hindu man who converted set to become first Indian layperson to get sainthood

Devasahayam Pillai, believed to have attained martyrdom for the faith, will become the first layperson from India to attain sainthood. All other Indians elevated as saints have been members of the clergy.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvanathapuram |
Updated: November 12, 2021 3:15:29 am
Devasahayam was declared Blessed on December 2, 2012, in Kottar, 300 years after his birth. (Image/wikimedia commons)

An 18th-century Hindu man who converted to Christianity is set to be made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church early next year.

Devasahayam Pillai, believed to have attained martyrdom for the faith, will become the first layperson from India to attain sainthood. All other Indians elevated as saints have been members of the clergy.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican, on Nov 9, said Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Lazarus (Devasahayam Pillai) and six others during a Canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on 15 May.

Born on 23 April, 1712 at Nattalam village, now in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district, Nilakanda Pillai — as he was known before embracing Christianity — grew up in an upper caste family of temple priests. He became a Catholic in 1745, a few years after coming into contact with a captain from the Dutch East India Company while serving the royal house of Travancore. Pillai took the Christian name Lazarus, but later came to be known as Devasahayam (God’s help). The Church is of the view that his preaching of equality of all people despite caste differences eventually led to his martyrdom. In 1749, he was arrested and shot on 14 January 1752 after being subjected to torture.

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