Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XIII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Selected Epistles of Gregory the Great.: To Augustine, Bishop of the Angli.
To Augustine, Bishop of the Angli 181 .
Gregory to Augustine, &c.
Though it is certain that for those who labour for Almighty God ineffable rewards of an eternal kingdom are reserved, yet we must needs bestow honours upon them, that by reason of remuneration they may apply themselves the more manifoldly in devotion to spiritual work. And, since the new Church of the Angli has been brought to the grace of Almighty God through the bountifulness of the same Lord and thy labours, we grant to thee the use of the pallium therein for the solemnization of mass only, so that thou mayest ordain bishops in twelve several places, to be subject to thy jurisdiction, with the view of a bishop of the city of London being always consecrated in future by his own synod, and receiving the dignity of the pallium from this holy and Apostolical See which by the grace of God I serve. Further, to the city of York we desire thee to send a bishop whom thou mayest judge fit to be ordained; so that, if this same city with the neighbouring places should receive the word of God, he also may ordain twelve bishops, so as to enjoy the dignity of a metropolitan: for to him also, if our life is continued, we propose, with the favour of God, to send a pallium; but yet we desire to subject him to the control of thy Fraternity. But after thy death let him be over the bishops whom he shall have ordained, so as to be in no wise subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop of London. Further, between the bishops of London and York in the future let there be this distinction of dignity, that he be accounted first who has been first ordained. But let them arrange by council in common, and with concordant action, whatever things may have to be done in zeal for Christ; let them be of one mind in what is right, and accomplish what they are minded to do without disagreement with each other.
But let thy Fraternity have subject to thyself under our God not only those bishops whom thou shalt ordain, and those whom the bishop of York may ordain, but also all the priests of Britain, to the end that they may learn the form of right belief and good living from the tongue and life of thy Holiness, and, executing their office well in their faith and manners, may attain to heavenly kingdoms when it may please the Lord. God keep thee safe, most reverend brother. Given on the tenth day of the Kalends of July, in the 19th year of the empire of our lord Mauricius Tiberius, the 18th year after the consulship of the same lord, Indiction 4.
In the scheme, sketched in this letter, for the constitution of the Church in England which Gregory seems to have contemplated being carried out in Augustines own day, he shews serious ignorance of the state of things in England at the time, and consequently of possibilities. Among other things he appears to have known little of the ancient British Church or of the independent position which its bishops would be likely to assume. Still it is interesting to observe that the scheme in its main features—that of two independent Metropolitans in the North and in the South, each with his suffragan bishops under them—was after all eventually realized, and that the present constitution of the English Church may be traced to this letter; only that Canterbury never yielded its primitive dignity, as had been proposed, to London.
Next: To Edilbert, King of the Angli.
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