The Catholic Christian community in the district is set to celebrate the canonisation of Blessed Lazarus, popularly known as Devasahayam Pillai, by Pope Francis in the Vatican on Sunday.
Devasahayam Pillai, a Hindu who converted to Christianity in the 18 th century, will become the first Indian layperson to be conferred sainthood.
According to church records, Devasahayam was born as Neelakanda Pillai in 1712 in the village of Nattalam in Kanyakumari that formed part of the erstwhile Travancore kingdom. He assumed the name ‘Lazarus’ or Devasahayam that translates to ‘God is my help’ after embracing Christianity in 1745.
Devasahayam was declared Blessed in Kottar in Nagercoil in 2012. The Vatican had cleared him for sainthood last year.
To commemorate the canonisation that will take place at the St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican, thanksgiving prayers will be held at various pilgrimage centres in the district on Sunday.
Thiruvananthapuram Archbishop Thomas J. Netto will lead the prayers at the St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Palayam. Neyyattinkara Bishop Vincent Samuel will lead the Pontifical Mass at the St. Devasahayam Church in Chavallorpotta near Parassala that functions under the Neyyattinkara diocese. The church, which is the first to be named after Devasahayam, has been observing a 15-day festival to mark the canonisation.
A vehicle rally was held from St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Palayam to the St. Antony’s Pilgrim Church at Kamukincode on Saturday to commemorate Devasahayam’s visit when he called on those who sought refuge in the locality after fleeing persecution after converting to Christianity.
In a statement, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) laity council secretary V.C. Sebastian said the conferment of sainthood will rejuvenate the Christian community in the country, particularly the Catholic laity. The elevation of a layperson to sainthood had immense relevance for the present times, he added.