Pillai shining example for those facing persecution

July 10, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Rome, July 7, 2012: He was imprisoned and tortured, but he persevered heroically to the end.

Venerable Devasahayam Pillai is a shining example for those suffering persecution for faith today, Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, has said.

He termed the 18 the century martyr, the first lay Indian being considered for canonization and declared ‘Venerable’ by Pope Benedict XVI last month, as “truly extraordinary” in an interview to Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano.

Cardinal Amato said “Pillai, a high-caste Hindu, suffered persecution at the hands of Hindus when he converted to Christianity but that was not the extent of his sufferings.

“He was imprisoned and subjected to all kinds of torture, but he persevered heroically to the end.”

Cardinal Amato said “Pillai is an amazing and huge testimony for India today, because the Church in India is also being persecuted, but she maintains her faith in Christ.”

Christians face persecution in many states, notably in Odisha and Karnataka.

Born in 1712 into a Nair family, Pillai converted to Catholic faith and was baptized in 1745 in Kottar Diocese.

Pillai took the name of Devasahayam which in his native Tamil means Lazarus. His wife also converted and took the name Gnanapoo Ammaal, which means Theresa.

The martyr’s conversion began with his friendship with Dutch Captain Eustachius De Lannoy, who led an expedition to India in 1741 to gain control of the Colachel Port in Travancore.

Local officials were infuriated by Pillai’s conversion because he interacted with people from other castes. Pillai was accused him of spying and arrested February 23, 1749.

He was tortured and for the next three years he was taken from city to city to show people what would happen to those who converted from Hinduism to Christianity.

Pillai was sustained during this time by his prayer and his witness to those willing to listen to him. He also received Holy Communion secretly from priests who visited him at his cell.

When three years of torture failed to make him abandon his new faith, the king ordered his execution. Pillai was shot on January 14, 1752 in the town of Aralvaimozhi.

His body was left on a pile of rocks for wild animals to devour. However, his remains were preserved by locals and buried under the altar at the Church of St. Francis in Kottar.

– cna

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