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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XII:
The Book of Pastoral Rule, and Selected Epistles, of Gregory the Great.: To John, Bishop of Syracuse.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Epistle XXI.

To John, Bishop of Syracuse.

Gregory to John, &c.

Felix, the bearer of these presents, has complained to us that, being born of Christian parents, he was given (i.e. as a slave) by a certain Christian to a Samaræan 1744 , which is an atrocious thing to be said.  And, though neither order of law nor reverence for religion allow men of such like superstition in any way whatever to possess Christian slaves, yet he asserts that he remained for eighteen years in that man’s service.  But he says that, when your predecessor Maximianus of holy memory became aware of the fact, he was freed by him, moved, as was becoming, by priestly zeal, from the service of that Samaræan.  But, inasmuch as the son of the said Samaræan is said after five years to have become a Christian, and certain persons are trying to reclaim the aforesaid Felix, according to his own account, to his service, let your Holiness enquire diligently into the facts that we have been informed of, and, if they should be found true, study to protect him, and allow him on no pretext whatever to be aggrieved by any one, seeing that, while the laws plainly forbid slaves of that superstitious sect who are before their masters in coming to the faith being reclaimed to their service, how much more ought not this man—born of Christian parents, and a Christian from his childhood—to be subjected in any wise to this contention; especially as neither could be the slave of that other man’s father, who it is clear was rather liable to punishment by law for his wicked presumption?  And so, as we have said, let the defence of your Holiness so protect him reasonably that no one may be at liberty, under any pretence whatever, in any degree to afflict him.


Footnotes

237b:1744

Samaræo, meaning apparently a Samaritan, and as such incapable, as Jews were, of holding Christian slaves.  See Prolegom., p. xxi., and references there.  In the case before us here the Samaritan claimant had himself become a Christian; and an attempt had been made on this plea to recover for him the Christian slave who had been emancipated from his father.  But this Gregory will by no means allow.


Next: To Rusticiana, Patrician.

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