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be noted also that one of the letters is addressed to a group of bishops, namely, those of Toulon, Marseilles, Chalon, Metz, Paris, Rouen, and (Angers ?); but probably there were separate copies of it addressed to each.
There are two subjects dealt with in most of these letters. Gregory was very desirous of getting the Frank sovereigns and the bishops with whom he was in correspondence to use their influence to summon a synod of the Gallican Church, to take measures against the simony and other abuses which were a mischief and scandal. He takes this opportunity to urge the matter. That he did not succeed is an illustration of the absence of authority and even the limited influence of the See of Rome in the Gallican Church at that time, even when filled by a man of so great personal qualities as those which commended Gregory to the admiration and respect of the Churches. The other topic of the letters is the commendation of Laurence and Mellitus to the good offices of his correspondents.
It will be sufficient to give the substance of the “circular letter," which is limited to the one subject which specially concerns this history.
He says: “Though the duty of your office admonishes your Fraternity to aid religious men, and especially
, those who are labouring for the good of souls, yet it is not superfluous that our letters should stimulate your solicitude, because, as fire is increased when fanned by a breeze, so the earnestness of a good mind is augmented by commendation.
"Since, therefore, by the co-operation of the grace of our Redeemer, so great a multitude of the nation of the Angles has been converted to the grace of the Christian faith, that our very reverend brother and fellow-bishop Augustine declares that those who are with him are not sufficient to follow the work into different places, we are sending to him certain monks, with our most beloved and common sons, Laurence the Presbyter and Mellitus the Abbot. Will your Fraternity show them such charity as is proper, and hasten to aid them in whatsoever they may need, that while they may have no cause for delay they may be refreshed by your kindness, and that you may be found partakers in their reward, for your aid in the work in which they are engaged.”
The letter to Theodoric, King of the Franks, after exhorting him to summon a synod, goes on to say: “What good things your Excellency did to our very reverend brother and fellow-bishop, as he was journeying to the nation of the Angles, certain monks returning from him have informed us. Wherefore returning abundant thanks, we beg that to the present monks also who are sent to him, you will condescend to give your help still more abundantly, and to assist them on their journey; so that the more your
kindnesses are extended to them, so much the more you may receive a greater reward from the Almighty God whom they serve." A letter of similar substance, though differently worded, is sent to Theodebert. Gregory, writing, also on this occasion to King Clothaire, tells him that messengers returning from Augustine have informed him what great kindness the King had shown to him on his journey to England, and begs that he will be equally kind to Laurence the Priest and Mellitus the Abbot.
In his letter to Queen Brunhilda, Gregory thanks God for her love for the Christian religion and the propagation of the truth, and tells her that fame had not been silent about the favour and munificence which she had shown to Augustine when proceeding to England, and that certain monks who returned from England had also related it to Gregory. How many and how great miracles our Redeemer has worked in the conversion of the above-mentioned nation is known to her Excellency, at which she ought to rejoice, because it is partly due to her aid. He goes on to pray that she will the more graciously bestow her patronage upon the monks who are the bearers of these presents (whom he is sending to Augustine, together with his beloved sons Laurence the Priest and Mellitus the Abbot, because Augustine says that those who are with him are not sufficient), so that they may find no difficulties or delays; and tells her that she will the more obtain the mercy of God towards herself and her grandsons who are dear to Gregory, the more she shall for His love show kindness in this matter.
By the hands of these newcomers Gregory sent to Augustine the honorary distinction of the pall, and the tenor of the letter which accompanied it seems to indicate that it was distinctly intended to be a badge of Metropolitan jurisdiction. The letter is as follows: "To his most Reverend and Holy Brother and
Fellow-Bishop Augustine — Gregory the
“Since it is certain that the unspeakable rewards of the eternal kingdom are reserved for those who labour for Almighty God, yet it is requisite that we bestow upon them the advantage of honours, to the end that they may, by this recompense, be enabled the more vigorously to apply themselves to the care of their spiritual work. And whereas the new Church of the English is, through the goodness of the Lord and your labours, brought to the grace of God, we grant you the use of the pall in the same, for the performance of the solemn service of the mass only; so that you in several places ordain twelve bishops, who shall be subject to your jurisdiction, in such manner that the Bishop of London shall for the future be always consecrated by his own synod, and that he receive the honour of the pall from this Holy and Apostolical See, which I by the grace of God now serve. But we will have you send to the city of York such a bishop as you shall think fit to ordain ; yet so that if that city, with the places adjoining, shall receive the Word of God, that bishop shall also ordain twelve bishops and enjoy the honour of a Metropolitan; for we design, if we live, by the favour of God to bestow on him also the pall; and yet we will have him to be subservient to your authority; but after your decease he shall so preside over the bishops whom he shall ordain as to be in no way subject to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London. But for the future let this distinction be between the bishops of the cities of London and York, that he may have the precedence who shall be first ordained. But let them unanimously dispose, by common advice and uniform consent, whatever is to be done out of zeal for Christ; let them arrange matters with unanimity, decree justly, and perform what they judge convenient in a uniform manner.
“But to you, my brother, shall, by the authority of our God and Lord Jesus Christ, be subject, not only those bishops you shall ordain, and those that shall be ordained by the Bishop of York, but also all the priests (sacerdotes, may mean bishops] in Britain ; to
; the end that from the mouth and lips of your Holiness they may learn the rule of believing rightly and living holily; and so fulfilling their office in faith and good conduct, they may, when it shall please the Lord, attain the heavenly kingdom. God preserve you in safety, most reverend brother. —Dated the tenth of the Kalends of July [22nd June] in the nineteenth year of our most pious Lord and Emperor, Mauricius Tiberius, the eighteenth year after the consulship of our said Lord, in the fourth indiction [A.D. 601].