Cornelius of Rome

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Our father among the saints Cornelius of Rome was the Bishop of Rome during the mid-third century. He contended with the anti-pope Novatian. His feast day is September 16.


Little is known of the life of Cornelius. After Bishop of Rome Fabian was put to death by emperor Decius on February 20, 250, Cornelius was elected, against his will, to the see of Rome by an assembly of sixteen bishops in March 251 during a lull in the persecutions due to the absence of the emperor.

Several weeks later a Roman priest Novatian had himself elected as the Bishop of Rome, a position now considered as an antipope, Bp. Cornelius was backed with the support of Bp. Cyprian of Carthage and the Church of Africa, Dionysius of Alexandria, and a local synod of sixty bishops of Italy.

Cornelius sanctioned the measures proposed by Bp. Cyprian of Carthage and his council of 251 for the restoration to communion of those who had fallen during the Decian persecution after varying forms of penance.

As the year 252 began a new persecution began that resulted in the exile of Bp. Cornelius to Centumcellæ (Civita Vecchia). In June 253, Bp. Cornelius died a martyr, as he was repeatedly referred to by St. Cyprian. He was buried in the catacomb adjoining the chapel of the popes in the cemetery of Callistus.

Succession box:
Cornelius of Rome
Preceded by:
Fabian II
Bishop of Rome
251 - 253
Succeeded by:
Lucius I
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