« Gregorius Nyssenus, bp. of Nyssa Gregorius, bp. of Merida Gregorius Theopolitanus, bp. of Antioch »

Gregorius, bp. of Merida

Gregorius (16), bp. of Merida from c. 402; known to us only from the decretal of Innocent I. addressed ad universos episcopos in Tolosa (should be qui in Toleto congregati sunt). Innocent's letter (which Jaffé dates 404) is concerned partly with the schism of those bishops of Baetica and Carthaginensis who refused to acknowledge the authority of the council held at Toledo a.d. 400, which readmitted to communion the once Priscillianist bishops, Symphosius and Dictinius, and partly with certain irregularities in the manner of ordination then prevalent in Spain. The pope lays down that although, strictly speaking, the illegal ordinations already made ought to be cancelled, yet, for the sake of peace and to avoid tumults, what is past is to be condoned. The number of canonically invalid ordinations recently, made is, he says, so great that otherwise the existing confusion would be made worse instead of better. "How many have been admitted to the priesthood who, like Rufinus and Gregory, have after baptism practised in the law courts ? How many soldiers who, in obedience to authority, have been obliged to execute harsh orders (severa praecepta)? How many curiales who, in obedience also, have done whatever was commanded them? How many who have given amusements and spectacles to the people (voluptates et editiones populo celebrarunt) have become bishops?" (See Gams's comments on Can. 2 of council of Eliberi. ii. 1, 53.) "Quorum omnium neminem ne ad societatem quidem ordinis clericorum, oportuerat pervenire" (see Decret. cap. iv. Tejada y Ramiro; Col. de Can. ii.). In cap. v. we have the second mention of Gregory. "Let the complaint, if any, of Gregory, bp. of Merida, ordained in place of Patruinus [who presided at C. Tol. I.] be heard, and if he has suffered injury contra meritum suum, let those who are envious of another's office be punished, lest in future the spirit of faction should again inconvenience good men."

From these notices it appears that Gregory succeeded Patruinus in the metropolitan see of Merida shortly after the council of Toledo in 400, that in his youth and after baptism he had practised as an advocate; that his election to the bishopric was therefore, strictly speaking, illegal, and that his appointment had met with great opposition. Innocent's letter would naturally confirm him in his see and discredit the party of opposition. It was probably during Gregory's pontificate that the irruption of Vandals, Alani, and Suevi into Spain took place (in the autumn of 409, Idat. ap. Esp. Sagr. iv. 353), and those scenes of 422horror and cruelty took place of which Idatius has left us a vivid, though possibly exaggerated, picture. After a first period of indiscriminate devastation and plunder, the invaders, settling down, divided the provinces among themselves by lot (Idat. l.c. ann. 411). In this division Lusitania and Carthaginensis fell to the Alani, themselves to be shortly destroyed by the Goths under Walga (418), and Merida with its splendid buildings and Roman prestige, with all the other great cities of S. Spain, "submitted to the rule of the barbarians who lorded it over the Roman provinces." Innocent's letter concerning Gregory is extremely valuable for Spanish church history at the time. Esp. Sagr. xiii. 163; Gams, Kirchengesch. ii. 1, 420.


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