Fathers of the Church

Epistle V: to Dominicus, Bishop

Description

This epistle is from Book V of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Here Gregory urges Dominicus to strive for ecclesiastical concord among his fellow bishops in order that they may better address the problem of heretics.

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 Dominicus, Bishop of Carthage.

Prosper your delegate (responsalis), the bearer of these presents, has been with us, and after other expressions of your charity handed us your second letters with an allegation of the imperial commands, and a paper giving an account of the synod that has been held among you. Having read all, we rejoiced for your pastoral zeal, and that our most pious lords had given no ear to the calumnies of venal persons brought against you on the plea of religion; but especially that your Fraternity has so taken pains to preserve the African province as in no wise to neglect to restrain with priestly fervour the devious sects of heretics; concerning the quieting of whom we remember having laid down the law so fully, even before consulting the letters of your Charity, that we do not believe that anything needs to be said again in reply to you about them. Although, however, this is so, and though we desire all heretics to be repressed always with vigour and reason by catholic priests, yet, on looking thoroughly into what has been done among you, we are in fact apprehensive lest offence should thereby be caused (which thing may the Lord avert) to the primates of other councils. For at the conclusion of your acts you have promulged a sentence, in which, while ordering the searching out of those heretics, you have brought in that those who neglect the duty are to be punished by forfeiture of their possessions and dignities. It is therefore best, most dear brother, that, in dealing with matters outside ourselves that require correction, charity among ourselves should first be preserved, and that we should be subject in mind (as I judge to be peculiarly proper to your Gravity) even to persons below us in dignity. For you will then more advantageously meet the errors of heretics with your whole united powers when, as befits your priesthood, you study to keep ecclesiastical concord among yourselves.

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.