4-December-2012 -- EWTNews Feature |

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Indians rejoice over country's first beatified martyr

Tens of thousands of Catholics attended the beatification ceremony of the 18th-century Indian martyr Devashayam Pillai in the southern India state of Tamil Nadu Dec. 2.

Bishop Peter Remigius of the Kottar diocese said that Blessed Pillai's life teaches Christians "how to witness our faith."

"While undergoing severe persecution, he never complained or was deterred," he told UCA News. "The spirit of evangelism was strong in him."

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided over the beatification ceremony. India's four cardinals attended with 40 bishops and tens of thousands of faithful.

Anthoni Ammal told UCA News she has been praying at Bl. Pillai's tomb in Kottar since she was a child and has received several favors.

"To us, he is already a saint. Whenever we have difficulties, we offer him prayers and get instant relief," she said.

Bl. Pillai was born on April 23, 1712 to an upper-caste Hindu family. He was a member of the royal service in the Kingdom of Travancore and was close to King Marthanda Varma.

He converted to Christianity in 1745 under the influence of the commander of the Travancore army. He was baptized by Jesuit Father R. Bouttari Italus. His wife also became Catholic.

Father Anthony Gabriel, the head of the local committee working for Bl. Pillai's beatification, said his conversion "antagonized upper-caste Hindus." Bl. Pillai faced "severe persecution for witnessing his faith."

The king ordered him to return to Hinduism but he refused.

The king then ordered his arrest for treason and espionage. He was imprisoned, tortured and banished. He was shot dead on Jan. 14, 1752, just seven years after his conversion.

Bishop Regimus said that many devotees visit Bl. Pillai's tomb at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Kottar. Bl. Pillai is the first Indian martyr to be beatified.

The beatification effort has been over two centuries in the making.

In 1756, the then-Bishop of Cochin Clement Joseph sent a report about Pallai's death to the Vatican, Fr. Gabriel told the Times of India. In 1984, the Diocese of Kottar formed a local committee to advance the layman's beatification.

Beatification is the last step before canonization and is a recognition of the blessed's heroic virtue.

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/World.php?id=6654#ixzz2E6IIvQJ8

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