Pope Francis officially cleared Blessed Lazarus Devasahayam and 6 others for Sainthood On May 3, 2021. Due to the pandemic, no date was fixed for the canonization ceremony. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints, on November 9 last year declared that the canonization would take place in the Vatican on May 15, 2022. The Pope presides over the liturgy at St. Peter’s Basilica.
“Devasahayam Pillai, a Hindu who converted to Christianity in the 18th century, will become the first Indian laymen to be conferred Sainthood. It is a ‘historic moment” says Vatican News.
Born on April 23, 1712, in the village of Nattalam in Kanyakumari District, Neelakanda Pillai served in the Travancore Maharaja court. He met a Dutch naval commander, who initiated him into the Catholic faith. In 1745, he assumed the name ‘Lazarus’, meaning ‘God is my help’. “His conversion did not go well with the heads of his native religion. False charges of treason and espionage were brought against him and he was divested of his post in the royal administration,” a note issued by the Vatican in February 2020 said He was imprisoned and subjected to harsh persecution.
On January 14, 1752, just seven years after becoming a Catholic, Devasahayam was shot dead in the Aralvaimozhy forest in the Kanyakumari district. 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.
“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 him for beatification to the Vatican.
Last year, the Vatican declared that he was eligible for Sainthood in February. He was said to be blessed by the Kottar diocese in 2012, 300 years after his birth. In remarks that day during the midday ‘Angelus’ prayer in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI recalled Devasahayam as ‘faithful layman’. He urged Christians to “join in the joy of the Church in India and pray that the new blessed may sustain the faith of the Christians of that large and noble country,” a note from the Vatican stated.
In 2017, two former IAS officers communicated to Cardinal Angelo Amato, the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, urging them to drop Devasahayam’s last name ‘Pillai’ as it was a caste title for Hindus. The Vatican dismissed their plea.
In a statement, Akila Bharat joint secretary of VHP, Sthanumalayan, said, “ it is their prerogative to confer Sainthood to anyone but giving him on a false premise that Devashayam was shot dead for converting people. This conferment is to establish their falsehood and record it in history. It is an act of dishonour to the people of Hindus. In the history of Travancore and Christian literature, it was mentioned that it was an unfounded lie.
The main reasons for conferring him Sainthood would be to help the growth of Christianity in southern Tamil Nadu, Kerala and parts of Sri Lanka. To encourage conversion, they have been falsely claiming that Thiruvalluvar is a Christian, Thirukkural is their book, and both Saivam and Vaishnavam have emanated from Christianity. This is another attempt to make a fake Devasahayam, as a saint, to distort history. The Vatican move would encourage conversion.”
He has appealed to State and Central governments, nationalists, historians and those who have faith in society to come forward to prevent them from recording anti-national and anti –Hindu historical events in history. VHP would continue to fight to protect the true history of Bharat,” he said.