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Cornelius : Part 2

'WILLIAM CORNELIUS' (1574)
THE FIRST MAN TO DIE FOR HIS FAITH IN GUATEMALA

A translated excerpt from the book:

'History of the Evangelical church in Guatemala'
By Virgilio Zapata. 1982 (Pages 4 & 5)

William Cornelius. Irish, born in Cork, came as a sailor on the 'Minion' ship, of the John Hawkins expedition. He arrived finally in Tampico, Mexico.

His true name was John Martin, son of Peter Martin, sexton of the Cork cathedral. According to Dr. Gonzalo Baez Comargo in his well documented work: 'Protestantes Enjuiciados por la Inquisicion en Iberoamerica', it appears that William Cornelius was the first protestant to arrive in Guatemala.

Right after the first collective process (taxation process) of 1568, in Mexico City, he went to Guatemala where he established his professions as both Barber and Surgeon.

In 1574 he was arrested and charged as a 'heretic'. Refusing to deny his (protestant) faith he was sent back to Mexico to be tried under the Mexican inquisition. He was sentenced on March 6, 1575, in the Chapel of San Jose de Naturales at the convent of San Francisco to be executed for believing that we receive salvation by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

He was later hung and his body was burned along with garbage from the San Hipolito market. This market used to be where the present day Badillo Street and Colon intersect in Mexico City.

We know very little about the activities of William Cornelius in Guatemala during his years there between 1568 and 1574, yet it is only logical to deduce that for his protestant character and the fact that he was deported from the country as a heretic, his testimony and his personal life and words, certainly spread through the neighbourhood to reach the ears of the ecclesiastical authorities and governors of the capital city of Guatemala. Thus William Cornelius was tried in the local 'commissary' and extradited to Mexico.

The author concludes that the William Cornelius case is typical of the happenings in Guatemala during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

There were many who were put to death for their faith during this difficult period of the Inquisition but according to available records, these took place after that of William Cornelius.


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