Fathers of the Church

Epistle XIX: to Marinianus, Archbishop

Description

This epistle is from Book VII of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Since the church of Ariminum had been shepherdless for several years because its bishop was sick, Gregory gave permission for the people to choose a new bishop if they could do so in unanimity. In this letter he asks Marianus to investigate the new candidate to see if he is worthy for the episcopacy.

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, Archbishop of Ravenna.

Your Fraternity has been long aware after what manner the Church of Ariminum has been hitherto deprived of pastoral government by reason of the known bodily affliction of the priest who was ordained by us. Now we, moved by the prayers of the inhabitants of that place, having frequently exhorted him to return with the help of the Lord to his Church, if he should feel himself relieved from this affliction of the head whereby he was kept away, he has been expected now for four years since the leave of absence given him. And, when at the instance of clergy and citizens who have come from thence and urged us with entreaties, we urgently exhorted him to return with them, the Lord helping him, if able to do so, he begged of us by a supplication in writing, that, inasmuch as by reason of this affliction wherewith he is held he can in no wise rise to the government of the same Church, or to the office undertaken by him, we should ordain a bishop to this same Church. Hence, seeing that the charge laid upon us of caring for all the Churches constrains us to see that pastoral guardianship be no longer wanting to the flock of the faithful, and being compelled by their entreaties, and by his renunciation on the ground of his own inability, we have resolved that a bishop should be ordained to this same Church of Ariminum: and, having issued our precept according to custom, we have not failed to admonish the clergy and people of the same Church, to the end that they may concur with concordant provision to choose for themselves a prelate. We therefore exhort your Fraternity that him whom all with one consent shall choose (as they themselves also have requested leave to do) you cause to be summoned before you; and test him by cautious enquiry on all sides. And if, by favour of the Lord, none of the things that are punished with death in the text of the Heptateuch are found in him, and if, on the report of trustworthy persons, his life should approve itself to you, send him to us with the certification of his election, adding your own letter of testification, to the end that a prelate of this same Church may, under the ordering of the Lord, be by us consecrated.

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.