Devasahayam Pillai: First Indian layman declared Saint

Devasahayam Pillai became the first Indian layman to be declared a saint by the Vatican.

Who canonized Devasahayam Pillai?

Pope Francis of the Vatican canonized Devasahayam during the Canonization Mass in St Peter’s Basilica.

Who else are declared saints by the Vatican?

Apart from Devasahayam Pillai, eight others were declared saints. They include four men and four women. They are:

  • Four men: Titus Brandsma, Cesar de Bus, Luigi Maria Palazzolo, Giustino Maria Russolillo, and Charles de Foucauld.
  • Four women: Maria Rivier, Maria Francesca of Jesus Rubatto, Maria of Jesus Santocanale, and Maria Domenica Mantovani.

Where does Devasahayam Pillai belong to?

Devasahayam Pillai was born on April 23, 1712, in Nattalam village in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. Devasahayam served in the court of Marthanda Varma of Travancore. He insisted on the equality of all people.

When did Devasahayam Pillai convert to Christianity?

Devasahayam Pillai was born a Hindu and got converted to Christianity in the 18th century. He was baptized in 1745, and later assumed the name ‘Lazarus’, which means ‘God is my help’.

How did he die?

Devasahayam Pillai was shot dead on January 14th, 1752. He is considered a martyr, and his mortal remains were placed in Saint Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in Kottar, Nagercoil.

How did he get sainthood?

In 2004, he was recommended for beatification. In 2012, he was declared Blessed by the Kottar diocese. In 2014, a miracle attributed to Devasahayam was recognized by Pope Francis, paving the way for his canonization. In 2020, he was approved for sainthood and ‘Pillai’ was dropped from his name. The Vatican refers to him as “Blessed Devasahayam”.

Why is he given sainthood?

According to the Vatican, he is given sainthood because he endured hardships after embracing Christianity.



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