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Fathers of the Church

Epistle VI: to Cyprian, Deacon

Description

This epistle is from Book IV of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Here Gregory commands Cyprian to investigate the case of a recently converted woman who was seduced from her monastery by the bishop's son.

Provenance

St. Gregory (b. 540 in Rome) was elected pope at the age of 50, serving from 590 to 604. In 14 years he accomplished much for the Church. England owes her conversion to him. At a period when the invasion of the barbarian Lombards created a new situation in Europe, he played a great part in winning them for Christ. At the same time, he watched equally over the holiness of the clergy and the maintenance of Church discipline, the temporal interests of his people of Rome and the spiritual interests of all Christendom. He removed unworthy priests from office, forbade the taking of money for many services, and emptied the papal treasury to ransom prisoners of the Lombards and to care for persecuted Jews and victims of plague and famine. Gregory also reformed the liturgy, and it still contains several of his most beautiful prayers. The name "Gregorian chant" recalls this great Pope's work in the development of the Church's music. His commentaries on Holy Scripture exercised a considerable influence on Christian thought in the Middle Ages. Following his death in 604, his numerous epistles, including the following letter, were compiled into the Papal Register of Letters.

by Gregory the Great in 590-604 | translated by James Barmby, D.d

Gregory to Cyprian, Deacon and Rector of Sicily.

It has been reported to us that a native of the province of Lucania, Petronilla by name, was converted through the exhortation of the bishop Agnellus, and that all her property, though she had it in her own power, she nevertheless bestowed on the monastery which she entered even by a special deed of gift: also that the aforesaid bishop died leaving half of his substance to one Agnellus, his son, who is said to be a notary of our Church, and half to the said monastery. But, when they had fled for refuge to Sicily because of the calamity impending on Italy, the above-named Agnellus is said to have corrupted her morals and defiled her, and, finding her with child, to have seduced her from the monastery, and to have taken away with her all her belongings, both those that had been her own and such as she might have had given her by his own father, and that, after perpetrating such and so great a crime, he claims these things as his own. We therefore exhort thy Love to cause the aforesaid man, and the above- named woman, to be summarily brought before thee, and to institute a most thorough enquiry into the case. And, if thou shouldest find it to be as reported to us, determine an affair defiled by so many iniquities with the utmost severity of expurgation; to the end that both strict retribution may overtake the above-named man, who has regarded neither his own nor her condition, and that, she having been first punished and consigned to a monastery under penance, all the property that had been taken away from the oft above-named place, with all its fruits and accessions, may be restored.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (LNPF II/XII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.