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Devasahayam Pillai: All you need to know about first Indian layman to be declared saint by the Pope

Pope Francis (L) sits past relics of saints on display as he leads a canonisation mass at St. Peter's Square in The Vatican on May 15, 2022 creating 10 saints including India's Devasahayam, French hermit Charles de Foucauld and Dutch theologian Titus Brandsma. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP) (AFP)Premium
Pope Francis (L) sits past relics of saints on display as he leads a canonisation mass at St. Peter's Square in The Vatican on May 15, 2022 creating 10 saints including India's Devasahayam, French hermit Charles de Foucauld and Dutch theologian Titus Brandsma. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP) (AFP)

Pope Francis canonised Blessed Devasahayam Pillai along with nine others during a Canonisation Mass in St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican

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VATICAN CITY : Vatican city on Sunday witnessed the first Indian layman being deigned as a saint by the Pope. Devasahayam Pillai became the first Indian layman to be canonised.

Devasahayam 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.

Who is Devasahayam Pillai?

Devasahayam Pillai was born into an affluent Nair-caste family at Nattalam in the present-day Kanyakumari District, on 23 April 1712.

He was an official in the court of Travancore’s Maharaja Marthanda Varma.

Devasahayam Pillai converted after being interested in the Christian faith that a Dutch naval officer who was sent on command of a naval expedition by the Dutch East India Company with the objective of capturing and establishing a trading port at Colachel was practicing.

Pillai converted in the year 1745 and assumed the name Devasahayam, which is the Christian name 'Lazarus' in the local language. "Lazarus" or "Devasahayam" in Malayalam, translates to "God is my help".

Church chroniclers say that the Brahmin chief priest of the kingdom, the feudal lords, members of the royal household and the Nair community brought false charges on Devasahayam to the Dewan, Ramayyan Dalawa. Pillai was divested of his portfolio in the Travancore administration and was later accused of treason and of divulging state secrets to rivals and Europeans.

Davasahayam died on 14 January 1752. His mortal remains were interred near the altar inside St. Xavier's Church, Kottar, Nagercoil, which is now the diocesan Cathedral.

A miracle attributed to Devasahayam Pillai was recognised by Pope Francis in 2014, clearing the path to his canonisation in 2022.

"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," a note prepared by the Vatican earlier had said.

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