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Fathers of the Church

Epistle LV: to Fantinus, Guardian, of Panormus


This epistle is from Book IX of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Since it has been found that the bishop Victor wrongfully took a synagogue from the Jews and consecrated it, Gregory instructs Fantinus to ensure that the Jews are given the full value of the synagogue and all its adjoining property.


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 Fantinus, &c.

A little time ago we wrote to Victor, our brother and fellow-bishop, that—inasmuch as certain of the Jews have complained in a petition presented to us that synagogues with their guest-chambers, situated in the city of Panormus, had by him been unreasonably taken possession of—he should keep aloof from their congregation until it could be ascertained whether this thing had been justly done, lest perchance injury should appear to have been alleged by them of their own mere will. And indeed, having regard to his priestly office, we could not easily believe that our aforesaid brother had done anything unsuitably. But, since we find from the report of Salarius, our notary, who was afterwards there, that there had been no reasonable cause for taking possession of those synagogues, and that they had been unadvisedly and rashly consecrated, we therefore enjoin thy Experience, since what has been once consecrated cannot any more be restored to the Jews, that it be thy care to see that our aforesaid brother and fellow-bishop pay the price at which our sons, the glorious Venantius the Patrician, and Urbicus the Abbot, may value the synagogues themselves with the guest-chambers that are under them or annexed to their walls, and the gardens thereto adjoining; that so what be has caused to be taken possession of may belong to the Church, and they may in no wise be oppressed, or suffer any injustice. Moreover, let books or ornaments that have been abstracted be in like manner sought for. And, if any have been manifestly taken away, we desire them also to be restored without any ambiguity. For, as there ought to be no licence for them, as we have ourselves already written, to do anything in their synagogues beyond what is decreed by law, so neither damage nor any cost ought to be brought upon them contrary to justice and equity.

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.

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