Devasahayam Pillai becomes first Indian layman to be declared saint by Pope Francis

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Devasahayam Pillai, who embraced Christianity in the 18th century, on May 15 became the first Indian layman to be declared a saint by Pope Francis at the Vatican.

  • His name was recommended for this in 2004.

  • Pope Francis announces canonization of Devasayam Pillai as saint along with 9 others  including four women.

  • About Devasahayam Pillai

  • Devasahyam was born as Nilakanta Pillai on April 23, 1712, in a Hindu family at Nattalam in Kanyakumari district, which was then part of the Kingdom of Travancore.

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

  • After meeting a Dutch naval commander at the court, Devasahayam was baptised in 1745, and assumed the name ‘Lazarus’, meaning ‘God is my help’.

  • His conversion did not go well with the heads of his native religion. 

  • False charges of treason and espionage were brought against him and he was divested of his post in the royal administration.

  • He was arrested in 1749.

  • On January 14, 1752, Devasahayam was shot dead in the Aralvaimozhi forest.

  • Since then, he is considered a martyr, and his mortal remains were interred inside what is now Saint Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in Kottar, Nagercoil.

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