EPISTULA APOLOGETICA

In a collection of Latin texts that concern mainly the question of the Three Chapters and its repercussions in the West Paris BN, lat. 1682, 9th c. MS is an Epistula generalis seu apologetica contra Iohannem Ravennatem episcopum, only recently published by Claire Sotinel. We know a John II, bishop of Ravenna 578 595, who had fought against the schismatics of Aquileia and to whom Gregory the Great dedicates his Regula pastoralis Ep. 1,24: MGH ep. 1, 37-38. The author, a monk or an ecclesiastic who expressly says that his epistula will be anonymous ch. 1, proclaims himself a sinner and desirous of obtaining pardon and ecclesial reconciliation; he turns to Bishop John, who refuses to enter relations with him. Feeling guilty and condemned to prison, the author is called a miser by the bishop, who refuses him pardon; John also sides against the papa universalis, the Roman pontiff, who takes an interest in the author’s case so as to absolve him. The author, condemned to death and forced to remain in prison, writes at length on the themes of mercy, pardon and not despairing of salvation. The document is interesting for the evolution of penitential discipline in the late 6th c. The writer refers to three authorities: the bishop of Ravenna, the pope and a political authority, distinct from the eternal authority, which has condemned him to death. The text must be from 593 595, at a time when relations between Pope Gregory and John of Ravenna were strained.

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