Fathers of the Church

Epistle XIII: to Alcyson, Bishop of Corcyra

Description

This epistle is from Book XIV of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. The bishop and clergy of Euria had previously taken possession of the camp of Cassiopus, which belonged to the church of Corcyra. Gregory ruled that the camp should remain in Corcyra's jurisdiction, but that the clergy of Euria could continue living there. Now that the bishop of Euria has offered a security (that he will never again claim jurisdiction) in exchange for permission to deposit the body of blessed Donatus in one of the churches of Cassiopus, Gregory tells Alcyson that they should be allowed to do this, but that when they are able to return home they should take the body with them. See also Epistles VII and VIII, Book XIV.

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 603 | translated by James Barmby, D.d

Gregory to Alcyson, &c.

To brethren who bethink themselves and return to wholesome counsels kindness is not to be denied, lest a fault seem to weigh more in the minds of bishops than charity. We have therefore received, in the presence of thy Love's responsales, Peter, reader of the Church of Euria, who came to us with letters from our brother and fellow-bishop John, and, when the letters which he had brought had been read, we took care to ask him if he had anything to say against the allegation of those thy responsales. And on his stating that he had been charged with nothing, and had no answer to make, beyond what the epistle of his bishop contained, we decreed without tardiness, under God, what was agreeable to the canons. After a long time, however, the above-written Peter produced a document which he asserted had been given him by his bishop; and so the case underwent delay. But inasmuch as in this document the above-mentioned bishop was found to say that he had hoped to have leave to deposit the holy and venerable body of the blessed Donatus in the church of the blessed John which is within the camp called that of Cassiopus, saying that he is prepared, on account of its being proved to be in thy diocese, to give thy Love a security that no prejudice to thee should thence arise, we thought it right that his petition should not be left without effect, now that in a time of necessity he desires provision to be made for him in such a way as to secure his acknowledgment in all respects of the jurisdiction of thy Church. Moved therefore by this reason, we exhort thy Fraternity by this present letter, that, without any delay or excuse thou afford opportunity for depositing the venerable body of the above-written Saint in the aforenamed Church of the blessed John; on condition only that he previously protect thee by a security in writing that he will never on any plea whatever claim to himself any jurisdiction or privilege in the aforesaid Church or camp, as though he were the bishop of the place, but guard there inviolably all the right and power of thy Church, the place being in thy diocese. At the same time it becomes thee also, as the same our brother has requested, to reply to him that whenever, peace being restored by the mercy of God, he may be at liberty to return to his own place, it shall be lawful for him to take away with him, without any objection made, the aforesaid venerable body. Herein, lest what is done should seem to be personal, and occasion should possibly be found for stirring up the contention anew, your successors also should be in all respects included in this promise to keep things as they are, to the end that through this preventional security neither may he in future presume to claim anything there in thy diocese against equity and the decrees of the sacred canons, nor the rights of thy Church ever in any manner sustain any prejudice from such concession.

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/XIII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.