St. Cornelius died a martyr during Emperor Gallus’ reign in the mid-third century. Celebrated with a feast day on Sept. 16, Cornelius was a priest who who succeeded Fabian as pope although the election was put off for more than a year due to the persecutions of Christians by Roman Emperor Decius.
Christians who had left the faith due to Roman persecutions of the period were the main focus of Cornelius’ pontificate. He condemned confessors who didn’t demand more penance from these lapsed Christians. Cornelius supported the bishop of Carthage, St. Cyprian, in the fight against the antipope Felicissimus.
Cornelius denounced followers of Novatian as well, after they claimed pardons weren’t possible for lapsed Christians and declared Novatian the new pope. A synod of bishops from the Western Roan Empire sided with Cornelius in 251. Gallus exiled him to Civita Vecchia, or Centum Cellae, where he died from deprivation.