Being a Christian used to be no big deal
But things changed. Society turned against Christians. Government agents targeted the Church. There were many stories of violence and even death.
Many Christians succumbed to the pressure and turned publicly away from the faith. Of these, many would eventually repent of their apostasy and return to the Church.
Some of those who had remained loyal to the faith were angry with those who had deserted, even to the point of treating these penitents with extreme cruelty. Some extremists said that baptized Christians who had formally embraced another religion could not be forgiven.
Caught between government pressure on one side and extremists on the other, the Pope himself was driven out of public view and died. One of his chief allies, a bishop from Africa, was captured by government agents and murdered this very week in the year 258.
The memory of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, bishop of the North African city of Carthage, is celebrated on this day: two men who fought to be faithful to Christ’s truth and Christ’s mercy.
(from an earlier post)