St. Cyprian, Bishop, Martyr

Feast day: September 16

Saint Cyprian of Carthage is second in importance only to the great Saint Augustine as a figure and Father of the African church. He was a close friend of Pope Cornelius and supported him both against the anti-pope Novatian, and in his views concerning the re-admittance of apostates into the Church.

Saint Cyprian was born to wealthy pagans about the year 190 and educated in the classics and rhetoric. He converted at the age of 56, was ordained a priest a year later and a bishop two years after that.

His writings are of great importance, especially his treatise on The Unity of the Catholic Church in which he argues that unity is grounded in the authority of the bishop, and among the bishops, in the primacy of the See of Rome.

During the Decian persecutions Cyprian considered it wiser to go into hiding and guide his flock covertly rather than seek the glorious crown of martyrdom, a decision that his enemies attacked him for.

On September 14, 258, however, he was martyred during the persecutions of the emperor Valerian.

In, "The Unity of the Catholic Church," St. Cyprian writes, "You cannot have God for your Father if youdo not have the Church for your mother.... God is one and Christ isone, and his Church is one; one is the faith, and one is the peoplecemented together by harmony into the strong unity of a body.... If weare the heirs of Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we arethe sons of God, let us be lovers of peace."

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