succeeded Fabianus as bishop of Rome on the 4th of June, A. D. 251.
He is chiefly remarkable on account of the controversy which he maintained with Novatianus in regard to the readmission of the Lapsi,
that is, Christians who after baptism, influenced by the terrors of persecution, had openly fallen away from the faith. Cornelius was disposed to be lenient towards the renegades upon receiving full evidence of their contrition, while Novatianus denied the power of the church to grant forgiveness under such circumstances and restore the culprits to her communion.
The result of the dispute was, that, upon the election of Cornelius, Novatianus refused to acknowledge the authority of his opponent, who summoned a council, by which his own opinions were fully confirmed. Upon this the religious warfare raged more fiercely than ever; Novatianus was irregularly chosen bishop by some of his own partisans, and thus arose the schism of the Novatians. [NOVATIANUS.] Cornelius, however, enjoyed his dignity for but a very brief period.
He was banished to Civita Vecchia by the emperor Gallus, in A. D. 252, where he soon after died, or, according to some accounts, suffered martyrdom.
He is known to have written several Epistles, two of which addressed to Cyprian will be found in the works of that prelate, and in Coustant's " Epistolae Pontificum," p. 125, while a fragment of a third is preserved in the ecclesiastical history of Eusebius. (6.43.) [CYPRIANUS.]