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18th century Indian who fought caste declared a saint by the Vatican

Devasahayam was born Neelakandan Pillai into a Hindu upper caste family


Devasahayam, who converted to Christianity in the 18th century in the kingdom of Travancore, was declared a saint by Pope Francis at the Vatican today.

Devasahayam, also known as Lazarus, is the first Indian layman to be granted sainthood for what the Vatican calls “enduring increasing hardship”.

Born Neelakandan Pillai into the Hindu upper caste family of present-day Kanyakumari, he worked at the Travancore Palace. In 1745 he converted to Christianity and took the names Devasahayam and Lazarus. He continued to struggle against caste discrimination and was persecuted and later killed.

In 2012, the Vatican recognized his martyrdom after a rigorous process.

Devasahayam was chosen for sainthood after a woman in her seventh month of pregnancy testified to a “miracle” after praying to him in 2013.

The woman said her fetus was declared “medically dead” and there was no movement. However, she says, she experienced movement “after praying martyrdom.”

The Vatican accepted this and recognized Devasahayam for holiness.

“This holiness is an invitation for us to live and lead a life without discrimination,” said Father John Kulandai, who attended the canonization at the Vatican as a key member of the Kanyakumari team that worked on this. question.

The original Vatican invitation had mentioned the ancient “Pillai” caste of Devasahayam. However, following protests that adding the caste name defeats the purpose of what Devasahayam stood for, the Vatican removed it.

“Saint Devasahayam championed equality and fought against caste and communalism. His saintliness comes at a time when India is facing a rise in communalism,” the retired officer said. IAS Devasahayam, who had written to the Vatican requesting the removal of Devasahayam’s caste name.

“This canonization is a great opportunity for the Church to oppose the communal poison that is prevalent. The Church should have made it a grassroots movement, but it failed and made it a clergy-centric event,” a- he added.


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