Pope Francis Canonizes First Indian Saint
CHENNAI, (IANS) – Pope Francis on May 16 canonized Devasahayam Pillai, or ‘Blessed Lazarus’, who became the first layman from India to be granted sainthood.
Pillai, a Hindu who converted to Christianity in the 18th century – drawing the ire of the then rulers, was canonized at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican along with nine others. A miracle attributed to him was recognized by Pope Francis in 2014 leading to his canonization now.
Church records state that Pillai was born as Neelakanda Pillai in Nattalam in the Kanniyakumari district in 1712. Kanniyakumari was then part of the Travancore kingdom and Pillai’s embracing of Christianity in 1745 made the Maharaja angry.
A court official, Pillai was introduced to Christianity by Dutch naval officer, Captain De Lannoy when he was in Travancore. After his conversion, he assumed the name of ‘Lazarus or ‘Devasahayam’, meaning ‘God is my Help’.
The Travancore Maharaja was, however, furious about his conversion and shot him dead at Aralvaimozhy forest on January 14, 1752.
Pillai was declared blessed in 2012 in Nagercoil and the Vatican cleared him for sainthood in 2020.
His mortal remains were interred near the altar inside St Xavier’s Church, Kottar, Nagercoil which is a diocesan Cathedral now.
Special prayers were conducted at churches that are linked to his life in the Kottar diocese of Kanniyakumari.
At Thiruvananthapuram, Bishop Thomas J Netto led prayers at the St Joseph’s Cathedral, Palayam and Neyyatinkara Bishop Vincent Samuel led the Pontifical mass at the St. Devasahayam Church in Chavallorpatta near Parassala under the Neyattinkara diocese.
A vehicle rally was held from St Joseph’s Cathedral, Palayam,