Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Tens of thousands of Catholics from across India took part in the ceremony of beatification of Devasahayam Pillai, an 18th century layman. The service was held on the campus of the Carmel School in Ramanputhoor (Diocese of Kottar, Tamil Nadu), near the martyr's birthplace. Papal delegate Card Angelo Amato, Mgr Salvatore Pennacchio, apostolic nuncio to India, and Card Oswald Gracias, president of the Bishops' Conference presided over the ceremony. Some 40 bishops and 2,000 priests and nuns took part in the event.
During the ceremony, Mgr Peter Remigius, bishop of Kottar, relayed some anecdotes from the life of the Indian layman and martyr, which occurred in 1752. Before that, he defined the Pillai's beatification a gift for the Year of Faith, and a "blessing" for the Indian people.
Card Amato, who is prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, read the apostolic letter in Latin, proclaiming Devasahayam Pillai blessed and 14 January as the day of his liturgical memory. A choir then sang some sacred hymns, which accompanied a procession in which the relics and picture of the blessed were displayed.
Devasahayam Pillai is the first Indian lay person to become a blessed. Born 1712, he was a Hindu official who converted to Catholicism by the witness of a Dutch Navy commander.
Yesterday, from his studio overlooking Saint Peter's Square, Benedict XVI greeted the beatification of the India martyr, whose "witness to Christ" is an example of the tensions with the coming of Christ, to which this Sunday, the first of Advent, is devoted.