St. Gregory the Great–Orthodox Bishop of Rome

On the title “Universal Pope”:

“For I said that neither to me nor to any one else ought you to write anything of the kind; and lo, in the preface of the epistle which you have addressed to myself who forbade it, you have thought fit to make use of a proud appellation, calling me Universal Pope. But I beg your most sweet Holiness to do this no more, since what is given to another beyond what reason demands is subtracted from yourself. For as for me, I do not seek to be prospered by words but by my conduct. Nor do I regard that as an honour whereby I know that my brethren lose their honour. For my honour is the honour of the universal Church: my honour is the solid vigour of my brethren. Then am I truly honoured when the honour due to all and each is not denied them. For if your Holiness calls me Universal Pope, you deny that you are yourself what you call me universally. But far be this from us. Away with words that inflate vanity and wound charity.” – St. Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, Book VIII, Ep. XXX, NPNF II, 12, p. 241b

On the title “Universal Bishop or Priest” as applicable to one man other than Christ:

“But I beseech your imperial Piety to consider that some frivolous things are very harmless, and others exceedingly harmful. Is it not the case that, when Antichrist comes and calls himself GOD, it will be very frivolous, and yet exceedingly pernicious? If we regard the quantity of the language used, there are but a few syllables; but if the weight of the wrong, there is universal disaster. Now I confidently say that whosoever calls himself, or desires to be called, Universal Priest, is in his elation the precursor of Antichrist, because he proudly puts himself above all others. Nor is it by dissimilar pride that he is led into error; for, as that perverse one wishes to appear as above all men, so whosoever this one is who covets being called sole priest, he extols himself above all other priests.” –St. Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, Book VII, Ep. XXXIII, NPNF II, 12, p. 226b

The succession of Peter is in common among the bishops:

“For, as we have his master, the Prince of the apostles in common, so also no one of us ought to have to himself alone the disciple of this same Prince.” –St. Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, Book V, Ep. XXXIX, NPNF II, 12, p. 179b

Peter was not a universal apostle despite him being first among the 12:

“Lo, he [Peter] received the keys of the heavenly kingdom, and power to bind and loose is given him, the care and principality of the whole Church is committed to him, and yet he is not called the universal apostle; while the most holy man, my fellow-priest John [Patriarch of Constantinople], attempts to be called universal bishop. I am compelled to cry out and say, O tempora, O mores!” –St. Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, Book V, Ep. XX, NPNF II, 12, p.170b

7 Responses to St. Gregory the Great–Orthodox Bishop of Rome

  1. Adam Barnette says:

    Amen. This is true. All bishops, as icons of Christ, have universal care of the particular churches that make up the one Holy Orthodox Church. And the Bishop Rome, while having a divinely established primacy of honor, is the servant of unity and truth, and never a figure unto himself.

    However, since this is a website devoted to Orthodox Triadology (a subject that I find very fascinating), I’ll broach a topic that has been troubling me for some time.

    The Orthodox Church claims to be not only the Church of Christ, but also the Church of the Holy Trinity. If this is true, why doesn’t the model of unity amongst her particular churches (dioceses) model that of the unity amongst the members of the Trinity? Whenever I ask how all the bishops with their churches constitute one Church, I’m told that unity in faith, episcopacy (nature), discipline, and purpose make one Church. This is true, but this cannot be as far as it goes. If we tried to pass this explanation of the unity of the members of the Trinity off as sufficient, we would be tritheist, and not longer Orthodox Christians. Why, therefore, are we tolerating this in describing the unity of the Church created in the image of this Trinity?

    It would be better, and from my readings, more patristic, to affirm that the chief way that all our bishops with their churches form one Church, is to have one of these particular churches be set apart as the source and fount of unity in the Church. This is the role of the Father in the Trinity. The Father, while being completely equal to the Son and Holy Spirit, has a unique role in which he serves the unity of the Trinity. The same is true in the Church, in which one particular church/bishop, while being entirely equal to the other churches/bishops, is set apart to be the source and foundation of our unity as one Orthodox Church. Just as without the “Monarchy of the Father”, we cannot have one God, without the primacy of said particular church/bishop, we cannot have one Church. Unity, in both cases, flows from a common, equal, source. And in both cases, the model becomes one because the source is one.

    If one is Roman Catholic, this role would be seen as residing in Rome. If one is Orthodox Catholic, this role would be seen as residing in another particular church (since according to the majority Orthodox opinion – Rome no longer holds the Faith). However, the fact that it has to reside somewhere is only logical, since the Church of the Trinity must have a similar model of unity that the Holy Trinity possesses.

    What do you think about this, my friend?

    God bless,


  2. Asikosoru says:

    Hello! Very nice site! Thank you!

  3. Asikosoru says:

    Hello! Very nice site! Thank you!

  4. William Ballow says:


    This is off topic but I was talking to a Reformed guy and he basically for the most part denies the perspecuity of Scripture. Doesn’t rejection of the perspecuity of Scripture and by implication the reliability of private judgment necessitate the rejection of Protestantism wholesale as well?

  5. Perry Robinson says:


    Isn’t the question, what did Gregory take those rights to be? Moreover, how can he extend those rights if they were of divine right in the first place? And I agree that it is legitimately said that the Roman See had universal care of all the churches, but that doesn’t amount to universal jurisdiction.

  6. Brandon says:

    F. Homes Dudden, a protestant, wrote in his book “Gregory the Great, his place in history and thought” the following:

    “In his dealings with the Churches of the West, Gregory acted invariably on the assumption that all were subject to the jurisdiction of the Roman See. Of the rights claimed or exercised by his predecessors he would not abate one tittle; on the contrary, he did everything in his power to maintain, strengthen, and extend what he regarded as the just prerogatives of the papacy. It is true that he respected the privileges of the Western metropolitans, and disapproved of unnecessary interference within the sphere of their jurisdiction canonically exercised. . . . But of his general principle there can be no doubt whatever”.

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