Ordinary Time: September 16th
Today the Church commemorates two friends in the service of Christ and his Church. Cornelius, a Roman, was the twenty-first Pope during the reign of the Emperor Gallus and Volusian. He had to oppose Novatian, the first anti-pope, who believed that apostates who repented could not be forgiven. Helped by St. Cyprian, Cornelius confirmed his papal authority.
Pope Cornelius (251-253) was the successor to Pope Fabian. During his reign a controversy arose concerning the manner of reinstating those who had fallen from the faith under the duress of persecution. The Novatians accused the Pope of too great indulgence and separated themselves from the Church. With the help of St. Lucina, Cornelius transferred the remains of the princes of the apostles to places of greater honor. On account of his successful preaching, the pagans banished him to Centumcellae, where he died.
Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus, illustrious as a pagan rhetorician in Carthage, embraced the true faith in the year 246 and was soon thereafter consecrated priest and bishop of that city (248). He was an energetic shepherd of souls and a prolific writer. He defended the unity of the Church against schismatic movements in Africa and Italy and greatly influenced the shaping of Church discipline relative to reinstating Christians who had apostatized. He fled during the Decian persecution, but guided the Church by means of letters. During the Valerian persecution (258) he was beheaded. He suffered martyrdom in the presence of his flock, after giving the executioner twenty-five pieces of gold. St. Jerome says of him: "It is superfluous to speak of his greatness, for his works are more luminous than the sun."