THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The canonisation of Devasahayam Pillai, the first Indian layman to be conferred sainthood, will be held at the Vatican on Sunday. Pope Francis will lead the ceremony at the St Peter’s Basilica at 2.30pm (IST).
Blessed Lazarus, popularly known as Devasahayam Pillai, was a Hindu who converted to Christianity in the 18th century. He was shot dead in the Aralvaimozhy forest on January 14, 1752, for upholding his faith. Pillai was an official in the court of the king of the erstwhile Travancore. He was introduced to Christianity by Captain De Lannoy, a Dutch naval officer, during the latter’s stint as commander of the Travancore army under King Marthanda Varma.
Born to Vasudevan Nampoothiri and Devaki Amma on April 23, 1712, at Nattalam of Vilavancode taluk, he was named Neelakanda Pillai. He started his career in Travancore state as a soldier and later became an official of Neelakandaswamy temple at Padmanabhapuram. It was during his third job as a palace official that he befriended De Lannoy.
Devasahayam was declared blessed on December 2, 2012, at Kottar. He was declared eligible for sainthood in 2020. To commemorate the occasion, special prayers have been arranged at churches that are linked to Devasahayam Pillai’s life in Kottar diocese of Kanyakumari. His mortal remains were interred near the altar inside St Xavier’s Church, Kottar, Nagercoil, which is now the diocesan Cathedral.