Pope and martyr. A Roman priest, Cornelius was elected Pope to succeed Fabian in an election delayed fourteen months by Decius' persecution of the Christians.
One of the main issues of his pontificate was the treatment of Christians who had abandoned their faith during the persecution.
He condemned those confessors who were lax in not demanding penance of these Christians. On the other hand, he also denounced the Rigourists, headed by Novatian, a Roman priest, who declared that the Church could not pardon lapsed Christians, and declared himself Pope - the first antipope.
Cornelius proclaimed that the Church had the authority and the power to forgive repentant lapsed Christians, and could readmit them to the sacraments and the Church after they had performed proper penances.
A synod of Western bishops in Rome in October 251 upheld Cornelius, condemned the teachings of Novatian, and excommunicated him and his followers.
When persecutions of the Christians started up again in 253 under Emperor Gallus, Cornelius was exiled to Centum Cellae (Civita Vecchia), where he died a martyr.
Some of his relics were taken to Germany during the Middle Ages. His head was claimed by Kornelimunster Abbey near Aachen.
He is patron saint of the town of Kornelimunster as well as a patron of cattle, domestic animals, people who suffer from earache and epilepsy.