Born: ? (Rome, Italy)
Died: June, 253
Pope: March, 251 - June, 253 (2 years)
Feast Day: September 16
Cornelius became pope at a very difficult time for the Catholic Church. His predecessor, Fabian, had died more than a year before. The long delay was due the bitter persecutions being suffered under the reign of emperor Decius. Only after Decius left Rome did church leaders feel comfortable enough to risk electing a new pope. In the meantime the affairs of the church had been governed by a committee, not unlike the circumstances during the church's earliest years.
Unfortunately for Cornelius, his election was not unanimously hailed. The spokesman for the committee, Novatian, objected to the choice and felt that he should have been picked instead. Some of the reason may be due to a desire for power, but there were also serious differences over the governing of the church. In particular, Novatian and Cornelius disagreed over how to deal with lapsed Christians - those who renounced their faith during the persecutions.
Cornelius advocated readmitting them to the Christian community after a suitable penance but Novatian wanted them shut out permanently. Most sided with Cornelius, but a few agreed with Novatian's harder position and a schismatic movement developed with Novatian as antipope. Eventually all would be excommunicated.
Also Known As: none
Alternate Spellings: none
Common Misspellings: none
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