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Who is Devasahayam Pillai? Sainthood For Devasahayam Announces By Vatican – Free PDF

The News

  • A Hindu man from Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, who converted to Christianity in the 18th century, is all set to become the first Indian layman to be declared a saint by the Vatican on May 15, 2022.
  • After completion of the process in 2022, Devasahayam Pillai, who took the name “Lazarus” after embracing Christianity in 1745, will become the first lay person from India to become a saint.

Who was Devasahayam?

  • Devasahayam (Lazarus) was born on April 23, 1712, to Hindu couple Vasudevan and Devaki in Palliyadi village near Nattalam in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, part of the-then princely state of Travancore.
  • His name originally was Neelakandan Pillai. His father, Vasudevan, was an influential person in the Travancore government and, as a result, he sent Neelakandan to work for the government.
  • Neelkandan became an official in the court of Travancore’s Maharaja Marthanda Varma when he was instructed into the Catholic faith by a Dutch naval commander in 1745.

Neelkandan to Devasahayam

  • In 1741, the Dutch navy attempted to capture the Colachel port in Kanyakumari. It was defeated and the captain, Eustachius De Lannoy was imprisoned.
  • Later on, Lannoy was pardoned by the king and was affixed to the Travancore Army.
  • Eustachius De Lannoy was a skilled military strategist, which helped him rise as a commander of the Travancore Army after gaining the trust of the king.
  • During this time, in 1945, Lannoy inspired Neelakandan to embrace Christianity.
  • Neelakandan took the name ‘Lazarus’ after converting to Christianity. He then called himself Devasahayam, meaning servant of God.

End of Devasahayam

  • Devasahayam faced the wrath of the Travancore state, which was against his conversion. According to Vatican Press, “He was charged with treason and espionage. He was divested of his post in the royal administration. He was imprisoned and subjected to harsh persecution.”
  • On January 14, 1752, just seven years after he became a Catholic, Devasahayam was shot dead in the Aralvaimozhy forest.
  • Since then, he has widely been considered a martyr by the Catholic community in South India. His body is now at Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral in the Diocese of Kottar.

Road to Sainthood

  • In 2004, the diocese of Kottar in Kanyakumari, along with the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council (TNBC) and the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) recommended Devasahayam for beatification to the Vatican.
  • In 2012, he was declared “blessed”. Pope Benedict XVI called Devasahayam as ‘faithful layman’.
  • In February 2020, the Vatican had declared that he was eligible for sainthood.
  • In November 2021, the Vatican mad it official that Devasahayam will be declared Saint from 2022. He is going to become first layman saint from India.

Who is a Saint?

  • In Christianity, “Saint” refers to someone who is exceptionally good or “holy.” Saint is someone who has led a life of “heroic virtues”.
    • Heroic Virtues include the four “cardinal” virtues: prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice as well as the “theological” virtues: faith, hope and charity.
    • A saint displays these qualities in a consistent and exceptional way.

How can One become a Saint?

  • Someone can be proclaimed a saint by the pope, which can happen only after death of the person.
  • The process for being named a saint in the Catholic Church is called “canonization”.

Criteria for Sainthood

  • According to the Vatican’s official news service, the new category has five main criteria:
    • The individual must freely and voluntarily offer their life in the face of “a certain and soon-to-come death”
    • There must be a “close relation” between “the offering of one’s life and the premature death of the one who offers it.”
    • The person must show Christian virtues, at least to an ordinary extent, before and after offering their life.
    • They must have a “reputation for holiness” at least after their death.
    • They must have performed a miracle.




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