Pope Leo I (440-461) Matthew 16:18

Leo, bishop of the City of Rome, to Anastasius, bishop of Thessalonica.

I. Prefatory.

If with true reasoning you perceived all that has been committed to you, brother, by the blessed apostle Peter's authority, and what has also been entrusted to you by our favour, and would weigh it fairly, we should be able greatly to rejoice at your zealous discharge of the responsibility imposed on you.

II. Anastasius is taxed with exceeding the limits of his vicariate, especially in his violent and unworthy treatment of Atticus.

Seeing that, as my predecessors acted towards yours, so too I, following their example, have delegated my authority to you , beloved: so that you, imitating our gentleness, might assist us in the care which we owe primarily to all the churches by Divine institution, and might to a certain extent make up for our personal presence in visiting those provinces which are far off from us: for it would be easy for you by regular and well-timed inspection to tell what and in what cases you could either, by your own influence, settle or reserve for our judgment. For as it was free for you to suspend the more important matters and the harder issues while you awaited our opinion, there was no reason nor necessity for you to go out of your way to decide what was beyond your powers. For you have numerous written warnings of ours in which we have often instructed you to be temperate in all your actions: that with loving exhortations you might provoke the churches of Christ committed to you to healthy obedience. Because, although as a rule there exist among careless or slothful brethren things which demand a strong hand in rectifying them; yet the correction ought to be so applied as ever to keep love inviolate. Wherefore also it is that the blessed Apostle Paul, in instructing Timothy upon the ruling of the Church, says: an elder rebuke not, but intreat him as a father: the young men as brethren: old women as mothers: young women as sisters in all purity 1 Timothy 5:1-2 . And if this moderation is due by the Apostle's precept to all and any of the lower members, how much more is it to be paid without offense to our brethren and fellow-bishops? In order that although things sometimes happen which have to be reprimanded in the persons of priests, yet kindness may have more effect on those who are to be corrected than severity: exhortation than perturbation: love than power. But they who seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's Philippians 2:21, easily depart from this law, and finding pleasure rather in domineering over their subjects than in consulting their interests, are swoln with the pride of their position, and thus what was provided to secure harmony ministers to mischief. That we are obliged to speak thus causes us no small grief. For I feel myself in a certain measure drawn into blame, on discovering you to have so immoderately departed from the rules handed down to you. If you were careless of your own reputation, you ought at least to have spared my good name: lest what only your own mind prompted should seem done with our approval. Do but read, brother, our pages with care, and peruse all the letters sent by holders of the Apostolic See to your predecessors, and you will find injunctions either from me or from my predecessors on that in which we learn you have presumed.

For there has come to us our brother Atticus, the metropolitan bishop of Old Epirus, with the bishops of his province, and with tearful pleading has complained of the undeserved contumely he has suffered, in the presence of your own deacons who, by giving no contradiction to these woeful complaints, showed that what was impressed upon us did not want for truth. We read also in your letter, which those same deacons of yours brought, that brother Atticus had come to Thessalonica, and that he had also sealed his agreement in a written profession, so that we could not but understand concerning him that it was of his own will and free devotion that he had come, and that he had composed the statement of his promise of obedience, although in the very mention of this statement a sign of injury was betrayed. For it was not necessary that he should be bound in writing, who was already proving his obedience by the very dutifulness of his voluntary coming. Wherefore these words in your letter bore witness to the bewailings of the aforesaid, and through his outspoken account that which had been passed over in silence is laid bare, namely that the Præfecture of Illyricum had been approached, and the most exalted functionary among the potentates of the world had been set in motion to expose an innocent prelate: so that a company was sent to carry out the aweful deed who were to enlist all the public servants in giving effect to their orders, and from the church's holy sanctuary charged with no crime, or at best a false one, was dragged a priest, to whom no truce was granted in consideration of his grievous ill-health or the cruel winter weather: but he was forced to take a journey full of hardships and dangers through the pathless snows. And this was a task of such toil and peril that some of those who accompanied the bishop are said to have succumbed.

I am quite dumb-founded, beloved brother, yea and I am also sore grieved that you brought yourself to be so savagely and violently moved against one about whom you had laid no further information than that when summoned to appear he put off and excused himself on the grounds of illness; especially when, even if he deserved any such treatment, you should have waited till I had replied to your letter requesting advice. But, as I perceive, you thought too well of my habits, and most truly foresaw how fair-minded an answer I was likely to make to preserve harmony among priests: and therefore you made haste to carry out your movements without concealment, lest when you had received the letter of our forbearance dictating another course, you should have no licence to do that which is done. Or perhaps some crime had reached your ears, and metropolitan bishop that you are, the weight of some new charge pressed you hard? But that this is not consistent with the fact, you yourself make certain by laying nothing against him. Yet even if he had committed some grave and intolerable crime, you should have waited for our opinion: so as to arrive at no decision by yourself until you knew our pleasure. For we made you our deputy, beloved, on the understanding that you were engaged to share our responsibility (pars solicitudinis) , not to take fullness of power (plenitudo potestatis) on yourself. Wherefore as what you bestow a pious care on delights us much, so your wrongful acts grieve us sorely. And after experience in many cases we must show greater foresight, and use more diligent precaution: to the end that through the spirit of love and peace all matter of offense may be removed from the Lord's churches, which we have commended to you: the pre-eminence of your bishopric being retained in the provinces, but all your usurping excesses being shorn off.

Patrilogia Latina Vol. 54  [OPERA OMNIA LEONIS MAGNI.]


CAP. I. De vicariatu Thessalonicensi, et causa Attici Nicopolitani episcopi.

Quoniam sicut praecessores mei praecessoribus tuis, ita etiam ego dilectioni tuae, priorum secutus exemplum, vices mei moderaminis delegavi, ut curam quam universis Ecclesiis [Col. 0668B] principaliter ex divina institutione debemus, imitator nostrae mansuetudinis adjuvares, et longinquis a nobis provinciis praesentiam quodammodo nostrae visitationis impenderes: siquidem continenti opportunoque prospectu promptum tibi esset agnoscere quid in quibusque rebus vel tuo studio [Col. 0669A] componeres, vel nostro judicio reservares. Nam cum majora negotia et difficiliores causarum exitus liberum tibi esset sub nostrae sententiae exspectatione suspendere, nec ratio tibi nec necessitas fuit in id quod mensuram tuam excederet deviandi. Abundant enim apud temonitorum scripta nostrorum, quibus te de omnium actionum temperantia frequenter instruximus: ut commendatas tibi Christi Ecclesias, per exhortationemcharitatis ad salubritatem obedientiae provocares. Quia etsi plerumque existant inter negligentes vel desides fratres, quae oporteat majoreauctoritate curari, sic tamen est adhibenda correptio, ut semper sit salva dilectio. Unde et beatus apostolus Paulus, ad ecclesiasticum regimen Timotheum imbuens,dicit: Seniorem ne increpaveris, sed obsecra ut patrem, juvenes ut fratres, anus ut matres, juvenculas ut sorores, in omni castitate (I Tim. V, 1). Quae moderatio si quibuscumque inferioribus membris ex apostolica institutione debetur, quanto magis fratribus et coepiscopis  nostris sine offensione reddenda est? ut licet nonnumquam accidant, quae in sacerdotalibus sunt reprehendenda personis, plus tamen erga corrigendos agat benevolentia quam severitas, plus cohortatio quam commotio, plus charitas quam potestas. Sed ab his qui quae sua sunt quaerunt, non quae Jesu Christi (Philip. II, 21), facile ab hac lege disceditur, et dum dominari magis quam consulere subditis placet, honor inflat superbiam, et quod provisum est ad concordiam, tendit ad noxam: quod, ut necesse habeamus ita [Col. 0669C] dicere, non de parvo animi dolore procedit. Meipsum enim quodammodo in culpam trahi sentio, cum te a traditis tibi regulis immodice discessisse cognosco. Qui si tuae existimationis parum diligens eras, meae saltem famae parcere debuisti: ne quae tuo tantum [Col. 0670A] facta sunt animo, nostro viderentur gesta judicio. Relegat fraternitas tua paginas nostras, omniaque ad tuos emissa majores apostolicae sedis praesulum scripta percurrat, et vel a me vel a praecessoribus meis inveniat ordinatum, quod a te cognovimus esse praesumptum.

Venit namque ad nos cum episcopis provinciae suae frater noster Atticus, veteris Epiri metropolitanus antistes, et de indignissima  afflictione quam pertulit, lacrymabili actione conquestus est coram astantibus diaconibus tuis, qui querelis flebilibus nihil contra referendo, ea quae nobis ingerebantur, fide non carere monstrabant. Legebatur quoque in litteris tuis, quas iidem diaconi tui detulerunt, quod frater Atticus Thessalonicam venisset, quodque [Col. 0670B] consensum suum etiam scripturae professione signasset, ut de illo non aliud a nobis posset intelligi, quam proprii arbitrii et spontaneae devotionis fuisse, quod venerat, quodque chartulam de obedientiae sponsione conscripserat, in cujus tamen chartulae mentione signum prodebatur injuriae. Non enim necessarium fuerat ut obligaretur scripto, qui obedientiam suam ipso jam voluntarii adventus probabat officio. Unde deplorationibus supradicti haec verba epistolae tuae testimonium praebuerunt, et per hoc quod non est tacitum nudatum est illud quod silentio fuerat adopertum, aditam scilicet Illyrici praefecturam, et sublimissimam inter mundanos apices potestatem in exhibitionem insontis antistitis incitatam: ut missa exsecutione terribili, quae omnia sibi officia [Col. 0670C] publica ad effectum praeceptionis adjungeret, a sacris Ecclesiae aditis, nullo vel falso insimulatus crimine, extraheretur sacerdos, cui non ob molestiam aegritudinis, non ob saevitiam hiemis darentur induciae; sed iter asperum et periculis plenum per invias nives [Col. 0671A] agere cogeretur. Quod tanti laboris, tantique discriminis fuit, ut ex his qui episcopum comitati sunt, quidam defecisse dicantur.

 Multum stupeo, frater charissime, sed et plurimum doleo, quod in eum de quo nihil amplius indicaveras quam quod evocatus adesse differret, et excusationem infirmitatis obtenderet, tam atrociter, et tam vehementer potueris commoveri: praesertim cum etiam si tale aliquid mereretur, exspectandum tibi      fuerit quid ad tua consulta rescriberem. Sed, ut video, bene de moribus meis existimasti, et quam civilia pro conservanda sacerdotali concordia responsurus essem, verissime praevidisti: et ideo motus tuos exsequi sine dissimulatione properasti, ne cum moderationis nostrae aliud disponentia scripta [Col. 0671B] sumpsisses, faciendi id quod factum est licentiam non haberes. An forte aliquod tibi facinus innotuerat, et metropolitanum episcopum novi apud te criminis pondus urgebat? At hoc quidem alienum ab illo esse, etiam tu nihil ei objiciendo confirmas. Sed etiam si quid grave intolerandumque committeret, nostra erat exspectanda censura; ut nihil prius ipse decerneres, quam quid nobis placeret agnosceres. Vices enim nostras ita tuae credidimus charitati, ut in partem sis vocatus sollicitudinis, non in plenitudinem potestatis. Unde sicut multum nos ea quae a te pie sunt curata laetificant, ita nimium ea quae perperam sunt gesta contristant. Et necesse est, post multarum experimenta causarum sollicitius prospici, et diligentius praecaveri, quatenus per spiritum [Col. 0671C] charitatis et pacis, omnis materia scandalorum de Ecclesiis Domini quas tibi commendavimus auferatur, praeeminente quidem in illis provinciis [Col. 0672A] episcopatus tui fastigio, sed amputato totius usurpationis excessu.