THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A decade after he was declared blessed, Devasahayam Pillai was conferred sainthood by Pope Francis at the Vatican around 2.30pm (IST) on Sunday. He is the first Indian layman to be canonised.
The Pope Francis-led canonisation mass was held in St Peter’s Basilica. The mass, honouring 10 new saints, was attended by over 50,000 faithful from across the world. In Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram Latin Archbishop Dr Thomas J Netto held special prayers at Palayam St Joseph’s Cathedral to mark the occasion. Special prayers were also held in churches linked to Devasahayam Pillai in Kottar diocese of Kanyakumari.
Miracle recognised by Pope in 2014
Born Neelakanta Pillai to Vasudevan Nampoothiri and Devaki Amma on April 23, 1712, at Nattalam in Kanyakumari district — a part of the erstwhile Travancore kingdom — Devasahayam Pillai converted to Christianity in the 18th century.
He was shot dead in the Aralvaimozhi forest of Kanyakumari on January 14, 1752, for upholding his faith. Devasahayam Pillai 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.
Devasahayam Pillai was an official in the court of the king of Travancore at the time. Devasahayam was declared blessed on December 2, 2012, at Kottar and declared eligible for sainthood in 2020. A miracle attributed to Devasahayam was recognised by the Pope in 2014, clearing the path to his canonisation in 2022. His mortal remains were interred near the altar in St Xavier’s Church at Kottar, Nagercoil.