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CORNELIUS

A centurion of an Italian cohort stationed in Caesarea; he enjoyed good relations with the Jewish community but was considered a pagan. He received an angelic visitation, instructing him to send to Jaffa and invite Peter to visit him. His delegation of three men was readily welcomed by Peter because he in turn had been advised by a spirit that Cornelius was sending for him. On his arrival Peter was treated with reverence by the centurion and his household and friends. Peter explained that the traditional taboo against Jews mingling with non-Jews was approved by God, but the Apostle made it clear that no one should be considered profane or unclean (Acts 10). "God," he emphasized, "does not have favorites, but anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him" (Acts 10:34-35). This was not only a welcome message to Cornelius and his friends but a startling revelation to Jewish believers, especially when Peter's explanation was climaxed by the descent of the Holy Spirit on all the listeners. Then Peter gave orders for all those well disposed to be baptized at once (Acts 10:48). Later, when he returned to Jerusalem, some Jews challenged his actions in eating with the uncircumcised and baptizing them. He explained the instructions he had received from God to spread the faith to non-Jews as well as Jews. His questioners were placated. "God," they said, "can evidently grant even the pagans the repentance that leads to life" (Acts 11:18).

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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