St Cyprian was born into a wealthy pagan family at the start of the 3rd Century in Northern Africa.He converted to Christianity in middle age. After his baptism he gave away a portion of his wealth to the poor of Carthage and made a vow of chastity.Within 2 years he was chosen as Bishop of Carthage.
In 250 the Roman Emperor Decius issued an edict for the suppression of Christianity and many Christians abandoned the church. Their subsequent re-instatement caused one of the great religious controversies of the 3rd century.
Cyprian decreed that those who had sacrificed to idols could only receive Communion at death but those who had bought certificates saying they had sacrificed could be admitted after a period of penance. Other priests were of the opinion that all could be re-admitted with no penance.
Cyprian was a great orator and was renowned for his kindness and courage. During a plague in Carthage, he urged Christians to help everyone, including their enemies and persecutors.
He was condemned to death and executed with a double edged axe by the Roman Emperor when he refused to recognise the validity of Baptism conferred by heretics and schismatics.
"You cannot have God for your Father if you do not have the Church for your mother.... God is one and Christ is one, and his Church is one; one is the faith, and one is the people cemented together by harmony into the strong unity of a body.... If we are the heirs of Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are the sons of God, let us be lovers of peace" (St. Cyprian, The Unity of the Catholic Church)