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Home > Fathers of the Church > Registrum Epistolarum (Gregory the Great) > Book IX, Letter 10

Book IX, Letter 10

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To Marinianus, Bishop of Ravenna.

Gregory to Marinianus, etc.

The bearers of these presents, the most distinguished men, Vicedominus and Defensor , came to us asserting that a certain bishop, by name John, coming from Pannonia, had been constituted in the castle which is called Novæ, to which castle their island, which is called Capritana, had been appended as a diocese . They add that, the bishop having been violently withdrawn and expelled from this same castle, another had been ordained there; concerning whom, however, they allege that it has been resolved that he ought not to have lived in the aforesaid castle, but in his own island. They say further that, while he abode with them there, he was unwilling to remain in schismatical error, and together with all his people presented a petition to our most excellent son Callinicus the Exarch, desiring to be united, with all those that were with him, to the Catholic Church, as we have already said. But they say that, being persuaded by the schismatics, he afterwards recanted, and that now all the population of the aforesaid island are deprived of the protection of a Bishop, since, while desiring to be united to holy Church, they cannot now receive him who has turned to the error of the schismatics; and they desire to have another ordained for them. But we, inasmuch as it is necessary to investigate all things strictly and thoroughly, have taken the precaution of ordering as follows; namely that your Fraternity should send to the said Bishop, and admonish him to return to the unity of the Catholic Church and to his own people. If, after admonition, he should scorn to return, the flock of God ought not to be deluded in the error of its pastor; and therefore let your Holiness in that case ordain a Bishop there, and let him have the said island for his diocese, till such time as the Histrian Bishops shall return to the Catholic Faith; so that each Church may have the rights of its own diocese preserved to it, and that a population destitute of a pastor may not be without the protection and oversight of government. In all these things, however, it becomes your Fraternity to take vigilant heed that this same people which comes back to the Church be very studiously admonished, to the end that it may be firmly fixed in its return, lest through wavering thoughts it fall back into the pit of error. But take care to request the most excellent Exarch, in his dispatches, to notify these same things to the most pious ears of the Emperors, since, although the order which has been conveyed to him appears to have been elicited from them, yet he is not forbidden in that order to allow such as wish it to return to the Church, but only, at the present time, to compel the unwilling. Let, then, our aforesaid son take into his charge the management of this affair, to the end that he may so frame his reports, that whatever he may ordain may not be dubious. We have, however, ourselves also written to our common son Anatolius , bidding him notify these things fully to the most pious princes.

I have received repeated and pressing letters from my most excellent son, the lord Exarch Callinicus, in behalf of Maximus . Overcome by his importunity, I see nothing further to be done but to commit the cause of Maximus to your Fraternity. If, therefore, this same Maximus should come to your Fraternity, let Honoratus, archdeacon of his Church, appear also; that your Holiness may ascertain if he was rightly ordained, if he fell into no simoniacal heresy, if there was nothing against him in respect of bodily transgressions, if he did not know himself to be excommunicated when he presumed to celebrate mass; and whatever may seem right to you in the fear of God do you determine, that we, under God, may give our assent to your ordering. But, if our aforesaid son should hold your Fraternity in suspicion, let our most reverend brother Constantius, bishop of Milan, come also to Ravenna, and sit with you; and do you decide together on the said cause: and whatever may seem good to both of you, hold it for certain that it will seem good to me. For, as we ought not to be obstinate towards the humble, so we ought to show ourselves strict towards the proud. Let, then, your Fraternity, as you have learned in the pages of holy Scripture, decide in this business whatever you may consider just.

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Source. Translated by James Barmby. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 13. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1898.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

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