PATRISTICS IN ENGLISH HOMEPAGE
CORNELIUS I
Letter To Fabius of Antioch
SynopsisCornelius describes the character of Novatian, including an interesting story about an exorcism
performed on him.  The letter appears mean-spirited and as such the story it describes is suspect, especially coming
from a person who perhaps felt threatened by Novatian.

But that you may know that a long time ago this remarkable man desired the episcopate, but kept this ambitious
desire to himself and concealed it, — using as a cloak for his rebellion those confessors who had adhered to him from
the beginning, — I desire to speak. Maximus, one of our presbyters, and Urbanus, who twice gained the highest honor
by confession, with Sidonius, and Celerinus, a man who by the grace of God most heroically endured all kinds of
torture, and by the strength of his faith overcame the weakness of the flesh, and mightily conquered the adversary, —
these men found him out and detected his craft and duplicity, his perjuries and falsehoods, his unsociability and cruel
friendship. And they returned to the holy church and proclaimed in the presence of many, both bishops and
presbyters and a large number of the laity, all his craft and wickedness, which for a long time he had concealed. And
this they did with lamentations land repentance, because through the persuasions of the crafty and malicious beast
they had left the church for the time…How remarkable, beloved brother, the change and transformation which we
have seen take place in him in a short time. For this most illustrious man, who bound himself with terrible oaths in
nowise to seek the bishopric, suddenly appears a bishop as if thrown among us by some machine. For this dogmatist,
this defender of the doctrine of the Church, attempting to grasp and seize the episcopate, which had not been given
him from above, chose two of his companions who had given up their own salvation. And he sent them to a small and
insignificant corner of Italy, that there by some counterfeit argument he might deceive three bishops, who were rustic
and very simple men. And they asserted positively and strongly that it was necessary that they should come quickly to
Rome, in order that all the dissension which had arisen there might be appeased through their mediation, jointly with
other bishops. When they had come, being, as we have stated, very simple in the craft and artifice of the wicked, they
were shut up with certain selected men like himself. And by the tenth hour, when they had become drunk and sick, he
compelled them by force to confer on him the episcopate through a counterfeit and vain imposition of hands. Because
it had not come to him, he avenged himself by craft and treachery. One of these bishops shortly after came back to
the church, lamenting and confessing his transgression. And we communed with him as with a layman, all the people
present interceding for him. And we ordained successors of the other bishops, and sent them to the places where
they were. This avenger of the Gospel then did not know that there should be one bishop in a catholic church; yet he
was not ignorant (for how could he be?) that in it there were forty-six presbyters, seven deacons, seven sub-deacons,
forty-two acolyths, fifty-two exorcists, readers, and janitors, and over fifteen hundred widows and persons in distress,
all of whom the grace and kindness of the Master nourish. But not even this great multitude, so necessary in the
church, nor those who, through God’s providence, were rich and full, together with the very many, even innumerable
people, could turn him from such desperation and presumption and recall him to the Church…Permit us to say further:
On account of what works or conduct had he the assurance to contend for the episcopate? Was it that he had been
brought up in the Church from the beginning, and had endured many conflicts in her behalf, and had passed through
many and great dangers for religion? Truly this is not the fact. But Satan, who entered and dwelt in him for a long
time, became the occasion of his believing. Being delivered by the exorcists, he fell into a severe sickness; and as he
seemed about to die, he received baptism by affusion, on the bed where he lay; if indeed we can say that such a one
did receive it. And when he was healed of his sickness he did not receive the other things which it is necessary to
have according to the canon of the Church, even the being sealed by the bishop. And as he did not receive this, how
could he receive the Holy Spirit?...In the time of persecution, through coward- ice and love of life, he denied that he
was a presbyter. For when he was requested and entreated by the deacons to come out of the chamber in which he
had imprisoned himself and give aid to the brethren as far as was lawful and possible for a presbyter to assist those of
the brethren who were in danger and needed help, he paid so little respect to the entreaties of the deacons that he
went away and departed in anger. For he said that he no longer desired to be a presbyter, as he was an admirer of
another philosophy...For this illustrious man forsook the Church of God, in which, when he believed, he was judged
worthy of the presbyterate through the favor of the bishop who ordained him to the presbyterial office. This had been
resisted by all the clergy and many of the laity; because it was unlawful that one who had been affused on his bed on
account of sickness as he had been should enter into any clerical office; but the bishop requested that he might be
permitted to ordain this one only…For when he has made the offerings, and distributed a part to each man, as he
gives it he compels the wretched man to swear in place of the blessing. Holding his hands in both of his own, he will
not release him until he has sworn in this manner (for I will give his own words): Swear to me by the body and blood of
our Lord Jesus Christ that you will never forsake me and turn to Cornelius.’ And the unhappy man does not taste until
he has called down imprecations on himself; and instead of saying Amen, as he takes the bread, he says, I will never
return to Cornelius…But know that he has now been made bare and desolate; as the brethren leave him every day
and return to the church. Moses also, the blessed martyr, who lately suffered among us a glorious and admirable
martyrdom, while he was yet alive, beholding his boldness and folly, refused to commune with him and with the five
presbyters who with him had separated themselves from the church.
(Preserved in Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History 6:43)

Letter To Cyprian of Carthage
SynopsisCornelius informs Cyprian of the solemn return of the confessors to the church, and describes it.

1. Cornelius to Cyprian his brother, greeting. In proportion to the solicitude and anxiety that we sustained in respect of
those confessors who had been circumvented and almost deceived and alienated from the Church by the craft and
malice of that wily and subtle man, was the joy with which we were affected, and the thanks which we gave to Almighty
God and to our Lord Christ, when they, acknowledging their error, and perceiving the poisoned cunning of the
malignant man, as if of a serpent, came back, as they with one heart profess, with singleness of will to the Church
from which they had gone forth. And first, indeed, our brethren of approved faith, loving peace and desiring unity,
announced that the swelling pride of these men was already soothed; yet there was no fitting assurance to induce us
easily to believe that they were thoroughly changed. But afterwards, Urbanus and Sidonius the confessors came to
our presbyters, affirming that Maximus the confessor and presbyter, equally with themselves, desired to return into the
Church; but since many things had preceded this which they had contrived, of which you also have been made aware
from our co-bishops and from my letters, so that faith could not hastily be reposed in them, we determined to hear
from their own mouth and confession those things which they had sent by the messengers. And when they came, and
were required by the presbyters to give an account of what they had done, and were charged with having very lately
repeatedly sent letters full of calumnies and reproaches, in their name, through all the churches, and had disturbed
nearly all the churches; they affirmed that they had been deceived, and that they had not known what was in those
letters; that only through being misled they had also committed schismatical acts, and been the authors of heresy, so
that they suffered hands to be imposed on him as if upon a bishop. And when these and other matters had been
charged upon them, they entreated that they might be done away and altogether discharged from memory.
2. The whole of this transaction therefore being brought before me, I decided that the presbytery should be brought
together; (for there were present five bishops, who were also present today;) so that by well-grounded counsel it
might be determined with the consent of all what ought to be observed in respect of their persons. And that you may
know the feeling of all, and the advice of each one, I decided also to bring to your knowledge our various opinions,
which you will read subjoined. When these things were done, Maximus, Urbanus, Sidonius, and several brethren who
had joined themselves to them, came to the presbytery, desiring with earnest prayers that what had been done before
might fall into oblivion, and no mention might be made of it; and promising that henceforth, as though nothing had
been either done or said, all things on both sides being forgiven, they would now exhibit to God a heart clean and
pure, following the evangelical word which says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” What
remained was, that the people should be informed of all this proceeding, that they might see those very men
established in the Church whom they had long seen and mourned as wanderers and scattered. Their will being
known, a great concourse of the brotherhood was assembled. There was one voice from all, giving thanks to God; all
were expressing the joy of their heart by tears, embracing them as if they had this day been set free from the penalty
of the dungeon. And to quote their very own words, — “We,” they say, “know that Cornelius is bishop of the most holy
Catholic Church elected by Almighty God, and by Christ our Lord. We confess our error; we have suffered imposture;
we were deceived by captious perfidy and loquacity. For although we seemed, as it were, to have held a kind of
communion with a man who was a schismatic and a heretic, yet our mind was always sincere in the Church. For we
are not ignorant that there is one God; that there is one Christ the Lord whom we have confessed, and one Holy
Spirit; and that in the Catholic Church there ought to be one bishop.” Were we not rightly induced by that confession
of theirs, to allow that what they had confessed before the power of the world they might approve when established in
the Church? Wherefore we bade Maximus the presbyter to take his own place; the rest we received with great
approbation of the people. But we remitted all things to Almighty God, in whose power all things are reserved.
3. These things therefore, brother, written to you in the same hour, at the same moment, we have transmitted; and I
have sent away at once Nicephorus the acolyte, hastening to descend to embarkation, that so, no delay being made,
you might, as if you had been present among that clergy and in that assembly of people, give thanks to Almighty God
and to Christ our Lord. But we believe — nay, we confide in it for certain — that the others also who have been
ranged in this error will shortly return into the Church when they see their leaders acting with us. I think, brother, that
you ought to send these letters also to the other churches, that all may know that the craft and prevarication of this
schismatic and heretic are from day to day being reduced to nothing. Farewell, dearest brother.
(Cyprian of Carthage’s Letters, Letter 45)

Letter To Cyprian of Carthage
SynopsisCornelius gives Cyprian an account of the faction of Novatian.

Cornelius to Cyprian his brother, greeting. That nothing might be wanting to the future punishment of this wretched
man, when cast down by the powers of God, (on the expulsion by you of Maximus, and Longinus, and Machaeus;) he
has risen again; and, as I intimated in my former letter which I sent to you by Augendus the confessor, I think that
Nicostratus, and Novatus, and Evaristus, and Primus, and Dionysius, have already come thither. Therefore let care be
taken that it be made known to all our co-bishops and brethren, that Nicostratus is accused of many crimes, and that
not only has he committed frauds and plunders on his secular patroness, whose affairs he managed; but, moreover
(which is reserved to him for a perpetual punishment), he has abstracted no small deposits of the Church; that
Evaristus has been the author of a schism; and that Zetus has been appointed bishop in his room, and his successor
to the people over whom he had previously presided. But he contrived greater and worse things by his malice and
insatiable wickedness than those which he was then always practicing among his own people; so that you may know
what kind of leaders and protectors that schismatic and heretic constantly had joined to his side. I bid you, dearest
brother, ever heartily farewell.
(Cyprian of Carthage’s Letters, Letter 47)

See Also Cyprian of Carthage’s Letters 40-56 for Cyprian’s replies and other letters to Cornelius