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17 Nov

Devasahayam Pillai

Devasahayam Pillai

Devasahayam Pillai, an 18th-century Hindu convert to Christianity, would be the first Indian layman (a non-ordained member of the Church) to be made a saint.

  • Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Devasahayam Pillai, together with six other Blesseds, during a Canonization Mass in St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican on 15th May, 2022.
  • Vatican City is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church.

Key Points

  • He was born on 23rd April 1712 in the village of Nattalam in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari District.
  • Known as Nilakanda Pillai before embracing Christianity, he grew up in an upper caste family of temple priests.
  • He went on to serve in the court of Travancore’s Maharaja Marthanda Varma. It was here that he met a Dutch naval commander, who taught him about the Catholic faith.
  • He became a Catholic in 1745. Pillai took the Christian name Lazarus, but later came to be known as Devasahayam (God’s help).
  • He then faced the wrath of the Travancore state, which was against his conversion.
  • On 14th January, 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 at Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral in the Diocese of Kottar (Tamil Nadu).
  • The Church is of the view that his preaching of equality of all people despite caste differences eventually led to his martyrdom.
  • He was first approved for sainthood in February 2020 for “enduring increasing hardships” after he decided to embrace Christianity.

Categorisation of Religion

  • About:
    • The world’s primary religions fall into two categories:
      • Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam
      • Indian religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and others.
  • Christianity:
    • Christianity is the largest, with more than two billion followers.
    • Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and is approximately 2,000 years old.
    • Its largest groups are the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the Protestant churches, and its sacred text is the Bible.
    • Over the centuries, Christianity grew in numbers as it spread around the world, often through missionaries and colonizers.

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