VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has approved the advancement of the causes of eight “Servants of God,” all priests and religious, including Father Varghese Payyappilly of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, based in Kerala, India.

The Pope met April 14 with the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, giving his approval for the holy people to be recognized as “Venerable.”

One of these causes was Father Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly, who was born in Perumanoor, India, Aug. 8, 1876.

Father Payyappilly was a priest for the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, which is a Church sui iuris — an autonomous Church with its specific rite, but in communion with Rome and subject to the governance of the Pope.

Ordained a priest Dec. 21, 1907, while serving at Marth Mariam Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church in Arakuzha, he started St. Mary’s Higher Secondary School.

He managed the school for 14 years, during which time priestly vocations at the school flourished, according to one of the priest’s former pupils.

Father Payyappilly was considered a good mediator and was sought after for solutions to problems. He was also held in great esteem by both Church and government officials and was noted for his punctuality, discipline, piety and fraternal charity.

His concern for the poor led him to establish a congregation called the Sisters of the Destitute in 1927 as a way to continue what he considered Christ’s redemptive mission among the poor.

Today the congregation includes more than 1,500 sisters and is present in Asia, Europe, Africa and the United States. They run schools, hospitals, homes for the sick and needy, rehabilitation centers for mentally and physically disabled children, health centers for AIDS and cancer patients, and libraries.

Father Payyappilly’s care of the poor was also made apparent when he turned St. Mary’s High School into a shelter for people who lost their homes and property in a flood in 1924, bringing food to people in a hired boat.

The priest died Oct. 5, 1929, from typhoid. His cause for beatification was opened Aug. 25, 2009, and he was declared a “Servant of God” Sept. 6, 2009.

The others that are also now declared “Venerable” are:

Emanuele Nunes Formigao, diocesan priest, founder of the Congregation of Religious Repairers of Our Lady of Fatima (1883-1958); Ludovica Longari, priest of the Congregation of the Priests of the Most Holy Sacrament (1889-1963); Elisabetta Bruyere, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa (1818-1876); Margherita Ricci Curbastro, founder of the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Agony (1856-1923); Florenza Giovanna Profilio, founder of the Institute of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Lipari (1873-1956); Maria Dolore di Cristo Re, founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Handmaids of Cristo Re (1888-1967); and Justa Dominguez de Vidaurreta e Idoy, superior of the Spanish Province of the Society of the Daughters of the Charity of St. Vincent de’ Paoli (1875-1958).

Pope Francis also appointed four new members to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints: Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education; Bishop Romano Rossi of Civita Castellana; Bishop Orazio Francesco Piazza of Sessa Aurunca; and Jesuit Bishop Daniele Libanori, titular bishop of Buruni and auxiliary of Rome.