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Pope Francis this week canonized an 18th-century Indian convert to Christianity who fought for equality for the lower classes, and made him the first layman in India to be bestowed with sainthood, the National reported.
Devasahayam – also known as Lazarus – joins a group of eight saints in India, including European missionaries such as Mother Teresa.
Born Nilakandan Pillai in 1712 in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Devasahayam hailed from a Hindu upper-caste family. He later converted to Christianity and changed his name in 1745.
The new saint is remembered for fighting against the rigid Hindu caste system and demanding equality for the lower-caste communities. His efforts made him a target of the powerful upper caste, which resulted in his persecution and eventual murder.
The Vatican initially recognized his martyrdom and declared him “Blessed” in 2012. His sainthood was acknowledged two years later. And in 2014, India’s Catholic clergy recommended that Devasahayam be beatified by the Vatican.
The layman was canonized during a special mass for 10 new saints at the Vatican this week. It was the first canonization event in more than two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.