Pope St. Gregory the Great

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Pope Gregory I (540 – 604), commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was the bishop of Rome from 590 to his death.  He is known for instigating the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome, the Gregorian Mission, to convert the then-pagan Anglo-Saxons in England to Christianity.  Gregory is also well known for his writings, which were more prolific than those of any of his predecessors as pope.  The epithet Saint Gregory the Dialogist has been attached to him in Eastern Christianity because of his Dialogues.

A Roman senator’s son and himself the prefect of Rome at 30, Gregory lived in a monastery he established on his family estate before becoming a papal ambassador and then pope. Although he was the first pope from a monastic background, his prior political experiences may have helped him to be a talented administrator. During his papacy, his administration greatly surpassed that of the emperors in improving the welfare of the people of Rome, and he challenged the theological views of Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople before the emperor Tiberius II. Gregory regained papal authority in Spain and France and sent missionaries to England, including Augustine of Canterbury and Paulinus of York. Gregory helped realign barbarian allegiances such as the Franks, Lombards, and Visigoths with Rome in religion. Because these groups had been previously aligned with the much larger Christian heresy of Arianism, regaining their allegiance would influence and shape later medieval Europe. He also combated the Donatist heresy,  which was popular particularly in North Africa at the time.

Gregory is a Church Father, a Doctor of the Church, and considered one of the four “Great Doctors”.  He was canonized a saint in the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, and various Lutheran denominations.  The Protestant Reformer John Calvin admired Gregory greatly and declared in his Institutes that Gregory was the last good Pope.


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