Devasahayam Pillai, who embraced Christianity in the 18th century 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.
A miracle attributed to Devasahayam Pillai was recognised by Pope Francis in 2014, clearing the path to his canonisation in 2022.
With the completion of the process, Pillai, who took the name “Lazarus” after embracing Christianity in 1745, became the first lay person from India to become a saint.
Devasahayam was born on April 23, 1712 as Neelakanta Pillai into a Hindu Nair family, at Nattalam in Kanyakumari district, which was part of the erstwhile Travancore kingdom.
He was an official in the court of Travancore’s Maharaja Marthanda Varma when he was instructed into the Catholic faith by a Dutch naval commander.
“Lazarus” or “Devasahayam” in Malayalam, translates to “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 earlier had said.
Sites linked with his life and death are in Kottar Diocese, in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.
Devasahayam was declared Blessed on December 2, 2012, in Kottar, 300 years after his birth.