Cyprian was born around 200 AD in North Africa, of pagan parents. He was a prominent lawyer and teacher of rhetoric. Around 246 he became a Christian, and in 248 was chosen Bishop of Carthage. A year later the persecution under the Emperor Decius began, and Cyprian went into hiding. He was severely censured for this.
Later, the question arose whether baptisms performed by heretical groups ought to be recognized as valid by the Church, or whether converts from such groups ought to be rebaptized. Cyprian favored re-baptism, and Bishop Stephen of Rome did not.
During the reign of the Emperor Valerian, Carthage suffered a severe plague epidemic. Cyprian organized a program of medical relief and nursing of the sick, available to all residents, but this did not prevent the masses from being convinced that the epidemic resulted from the wrath of the gods at the spread of Christianity. Another persecution arose, and this time Cyprian did not flee. He was arrested, tried, and finally beheaded on 14 September 258.
Many of his writings have been preserved. His essay On the Unity of the Catholic Church stresses the importance of visible, concrete unity among Christians, and the role of the bishops in guaranteeing that unity. It has greatly influenced Christian thought. His essays and letters on baptism and the Lord's Supper stand out in a special way.
With fraternal affection,
Fr. Homero C