Devasahayam Pillai, a Hindu man who converted to Christianity in the 18th century, will become the first Indian layman to be conferred sainthood. Pope Francis will canonise Blessed Devasahayam Pillai, together with six other Blesseds, during a Canonisation Mass in St Peter's Basilica in Vatican on May 15, 2022, Church officials said on Wednesday, November 10. The announcement was made by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican on Tuesday.
With the completion of the process, Pillai, who took the name "Lazarus" after embracing Christianity in 1745, will become the first lay person from India to become a saint, the church said. "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 said. Sites linked with his life and death are in Kottar Diocese, in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.
Devasahayam was declared Blessed on December 2, 2012, in Kottar, 300 years after his birth.
Devasahayam was born Neelakanta Pillai into a Hindu Nair family, at Nattalam in Kanyakumari district, which was part of erstwhile Travancore kingdom, on 23 April, 1712. 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. 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.
A miracle attributed to Devasahayam Pillai was recognised by Pope Francis in 2014, clearing the path to his canonisation in 2022.