St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian
In the middle of the third century, the Church was still being persecuted. The fierce persecution of Emperor Decius claimed the life of Pope St. Fabian. The Church was without a pope for nearly a year. A holy priest of Rome, Cornelius, was elected in 251. He accepted because he loved Christ. He would serve the Church as pope even if his ministry would cost him his life. That is why Pope Cornelius was so greatly admired throughout the world. The bishops of Africa were especially outspoken in their love and loyalty to the pope. Bishop Cyprian of Carthage sent him letters of encouragement and support. Cyprian had been a convert at the age of twenty-five. He had astonished the Christians of Carthage by pledging a vow of perpetual chastity right before his baptism. He had eventually become a priest and in 249 a bishop.
Bishop Cyprian greatly encouraged Pope Cornelius by reminding him that during the present persecution in Rome not a single Christian had given up the faith. St. Cyprian's writings explain the love that Christians should have for the whole Church. This love should be for the pope as well as for the local diocese and parish. Cyprian wrote a scholarly work on the unity of the Church. This remains an important topic for all times, including our own.
Pope St. Cornelius died in exile at the port of Rome in September, 253. Because he suffered so much as pope, he is considered a martyr. St. Cyprian died five years later during the persecution of Valerian. He was beheaded at Carthage on September 14, 258. Together they share a feast day to remind us of the unity that the Church should always enjoy. This unity is a mark of the presence of Jesus who is the Center.
Let us pray for unity among people of different cultures, races, nations, and religions.