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Fathers of the Church

Epistle I: to Marinianus, Bishop

Description

This epistle is from Book VI of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Here Gregory tells Marinianus what bequests of his predecessor's will should or should not stand.

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 Marinianus, Bishop of Ravenna.

As unjust demands should not be conceded, so the petition of such as desire what is lawful ought not to be set aside. Now your Fraternity's presbyters, deacons and clergy have presented to us a petition complaining that the late John, your predecessor, made a will burdening his Church with various bequests. And they have petitioned that these, which are to the detriment of his Church, should under no excuse be paid, as being prohibited by law. And although, heredity and succession having been by him renounced, no reason binds thee to satisfy any such claims, nevertheless we hereby exhort thee over and above that with regard to such bequests as he has made, contrary to the ordinances of the laws, of property belonging to his Church, or acquired by him in his episcopate, your Fraternity neither lend your authority nor on any account consent to them. But, if he has wished or directed anything to be done with regard to his private property which he had before his episcopate, and which he had not previously bestowed upon his Church, it is necessary that this disposition should be held valid in all respects, and that no one of the ecclesiastics should attempt against reason on any pretext to set it aside.

But, inasmuch as during his life he often begged of us that we should confirm by our authority what he had conferred on the monastery which he had himself constructed near the church of Saint Apollinaris, and we promised to do this, we hold it needful to exhort your Fraternity to suffer nothing of what he has there conferred and constituted to be diminished, but to see to all being preserved and firmly established. Since, then, he is known to have made mention of this monastery, and of the property conferred on it, in the will which he made, you must know that we have not confirmed this part of it by reason of our following his last wishes, but because, as we have said, we promised it to him when he was alive. Let your Fraternity, therefore, make haste so carefully to accomplish all these things that both what was by him constituted and by us confirmed in the above-named monastery may be maintained, and what he has by will directed to be given or done to the detriment of his Church may have no validity, seeing that the law forbids it.

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.