Skip Navigation Links0916-SsCorneliusAndCyprian

Home > About > 0916-SsCorneliusAndCyprian

St. Cornelius (pope and martyr) & St. Cyprian (bishop and martyr) (September 16)

Their names are remembered in the Eucharistic Prayer (I) of the Mass. Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian lived together through a series of persecutions by the Roman government and together they tried to keep their Christian communiities from being split by dissesion.

Cornelius was elected pope in 251 after a violent persecution of Christians in Rome by the Emperor Decius. A number of Christians there and in Africa renounced their faith rather than face death or imprisonment, and when peaceful times returened, they wished to return to their Church. Some in the Roman Church, led by Novatian, held that these lapsed Christians could never be reconciled. Cornelius and Cyprian opposed this severe position and maintained that God's forgiveness could not be limited. Their position prevailed. Cornelius died in exile at Civita Veccia in 253. He was buried in the cemetery of St. Callisus.

Cyprian was born at Carthage in 210. He was converted to Christianity in 246, ordained, and elected Bishop of Carthage in 248. A learned bishop, he enjoyed the love and respect of his people. In 249, during the Decian persecution, he fled into hiding, but kept in contact with his diocese by frequent letters.

Decian died in 251 and Cyprian returned to Carthage. With Cornelius, he severly oppposed the position of Novation concerning apostasy. Finally, in the persecution under the Emperor Valerian in 258, Cyprian was seized, exiled and brought before the Roman proconsul, Galerius Maximus.

"The Emperor orders you to offer sacrifice," the proconsul said. "I will not sacrifice," Cyprian answered. "Think about it," the proconsul went on. "Do what you have to; there is no reason to think over what is so clear to me," Cyprian firmly responded. He was beheaded by soldiers at Curubis on September 13, 258.

[As an aside: to be a martyer does not necessarily mean that a person gives their life in the shedding of blood. The word "martyr" is translated as "witness." So anyone who is willing to take a stand for Christ and the Church is a martyer - a witness for Christ.]