First Indian layman to be conferred sainthood

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Pope Francis 

Devasahayam Pillai, a Hindu converted to Christianity in the 18th century, will become the first Indian layman to be conferred sainthood. Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Devasahayam Pillai, together with six other Blesseds, during a Canonization Mass in St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican on May 15, 2022, Church officials said here on Wednesday.

The announcement was made by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican on Tuesday.

With the completion of the process, Pillai, who took the name “Lazarus” after embracing Christianity in 1745, will become the first lay person from India to become a saint, the church said.

“Lazarus” or “Devasahayam” in the local language, meaning “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”, a note prepared by the Vatican said.

Sites linked with his life and martyrdom are in Kottar Diocese, in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. Devasahayam was declared Blessed on December 2, 2012, in Kottar, 300 years after his birth.

He was born into a Hindu Nair family at Nattalam in Kanyakumari district, which was part of erstwhile Travancore kingdom, on 23 April, 1712.

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