Gregory the Great

Bishop of Rome, Teacher of the Faith

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Gregory the Great
"Saint Gregory the Great"by Zurbaran

Gregory was a person of strong character and warm charity. His life bore ample witness to the title he chose as Pope, “Servant of the servants of God”. The son of a Roman senator, he had a career in government and was prefect of Rome in 573. Gregory had a strong social conscience and used his vast wealth for extensive social relief work. He idealised a simple more moral lfiestyle and established several monasteries and lived a monastic life in his city palace, which he turned into a monastery. Pope Benedict I appointed him one of the seven deacons of Rome, with considerable responsibility for social work in the city. He was elected pope in 590.

He rose to office in a turbulent time. Faced with the inability of the emperor to organise the protection of Italy against the Lombard invasions, Gregory took action himself, putting the organisation of the Italian cities on a firm footing and establishing peace with the Lombards in the west in 592. He had gifted administration skills, enabling much charitable work to be sustained in a period of pestilence, famine and unrest.

Gregory was a great promoter of the mission to spread the Gospel. According to Bede, Gregory having earlier in his life seen fair-haired slaves from Britain in the market, sent Augustine, an important member of his own monastery to Canterbury, to bring the Gospel to the Angles.

Gregory wrote a text-book on Pastoral Care which became a classic on ministry for medieval clergy. He wrote a number of other works and made a significant contribution to the development of the liturgy and of liturgical music.

He was declared a saint by popular acclaim immediately after his death.

BORN: 540, Rome, Italy

DIED: 12 March 604 AD, Rome, Italy