Around 100,000 people, including protesters of the Koodankulam nuclear plant, attended the beatification ceremony of the Indian lay martyr Devasahayam Pillai in Kottar diocese of Tamil Nadu yesterday.
“It was a historical moment for the Catholics in India and Kottar diocese,” said Fr. Antony Gabriel, who acted as the vice postulator for the causes of virtues of Pillai for 19 years.
A group of protesters, opposing the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in the state, also offered prayers seeking Pillai’s intervention to close down the 1.3 billion worth nuke facility which is going to be commissioned soon.
Shouri Ammal, one of the protesters, told ucanews.com she prays before Pillai when ever she needs a divine intervention.
“This time I went to Nagercoil to pray for the shut down of the nuclear plant. We have been fighting against it for so long. Divine intervention would save us from the deadly Koodankulam plant,” said the 45-year-old widow from Idinthakarai village.
Church bell at the Saint Francis Cathedral tolled when Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, announced the elevation of Pillai, an 18th century Hindu convert to Catholicism, as “Blessed” and the crowd greeted the news with applause.
The ceremony was held at the Camel Higher Secondary School grounds, near the cathedral in Nagercoil city, headquarters of the diocese.
Earlier, the ceremony started with the Pontifical Mass led by Cardinal Amato and apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio.
Cardinals Oswald Gracias, Telesphore Toppo and Mar Baselios Cleemis were co-adjutants. More than 40 bishops from various places across the country witnessed the ceremony.
Over thousand priests and nuns also took part in the event. Political leaders, cutting across party lines, also attended the program.
Fr. Gabriel said, “We have decided to build a church in Nattalam village in the state where his shrine is located.”
He added that Pillai’s statue will be placed in five churches of the diocese, including Kottar.
Pilgrims started thronging the church since morning and offered their prayers before Pillai’s tomb.
Thousands of people traveled long distances to offer prayers before Pillai’s tomb.
Antony John from Thiruvananthapuram, who travelled 90 kms to witness the ceremony, said he feels attached to the lay martyr as “all my prayers through him were answered.”
“My wife will be undergoing a surgery next week. I want his divine intervention,” said John.
Pillai is celebrated as the martyr of the diocese who is believed to have been killed for professing Catholic faith in the 18th century.