Pope Gregory III – Writes to Boniface about the Organization of the Church in Bavaria, 29 October 739

Pope Gregory IIITo our most reverend and holy brother Boniface, Gregory, servant of the servants of God.

A sentence of the teacher of all nations, the celebrated Apostle Saint Paul, tells us that everything helps to secure the good of those who love God. Therefore when we learned from your report that God in His mercy had loosed a great number of the German people from the toils of paganism and had brought as many as a hundred thousand souls into the Church through your efforts and those of Prince Charles, we raised our hands in prayer and thanked God, the Giver of all good, for having opened the gates of mercy and love to make known to the West the path of salvation. Glory be to Him for ever.

You tell us that you have made a journey into Bavaria and found the people there living in a manner contrary to the ordinances of the Church, and that, because they have no bishops except Vivilo, whom we consecrated some time ago, you have, with the approval of Odilo, Duke of Bavaria, and the nobles of the province, consecrated three other bishops. You say also that you have divided the province into four districts, so that each bishop may have his own diocese. In carrying out our commands and in performing the task that was enjoined upon you you have acted wisely and well.

Continue, reverend brother, to teach them the holy, Catholic and apostolic traditions of the See of Rome, so that the ignorant may be enlightened and may follow the path that leads to eternal bliss.

As to the priests whom you have found there, if the bishops who ordained them are not known to you and a doubt remains whether they were true bishops or not, let them be ordained by a bishop and fulfill their sacred charge, provided they are Catholics of blameless life, trained to the service of God, were versed in the teachings of the Church and fitted to hold office.

Those who were baptized with a formula expressed in a heathen tongue, provided their Baptism was performed in the name of the Trinity should be confirmed with sacred chrism and the laying-on-of-hands.

Bishop Vivilo was consecrated by us. If, however, he has deviated from orthodox teaching in any point, correct and instruct him according to the traditions of the Church of Rome, as you have learned them from us.

We command you to attend the council which is to be held on the banks of the Danube and, vested with Apostolic authority, to act as our representative. As far as God shall grant you strength, continue to preach the word of salvation, so that the Christian faith may increase and multiply in the name of the Lord.

You have no permission, brother, to remain in one district once your work there has been completed. Strengthen the minds of your brethren and the faithful who are scattered throughout the West and continue to preach wherever God grants you opportunity to save souls. When the need arises consecrate bishops according to canon law in your capacity as our representative, and instruct them to observe apostolic and Catholic doctrine. In this way you will assure yourself of a great reward and win over to Almighty God a perfect people. Do not shrink, beloved brother, from difficult and protracted journeys in the service of the Christian faith, for it is written that small is the gate and narrow the road that leads on to life.

Continue, then, brother, the exemplary work you have begun, so that in the day of Christ you may be entitled to say in the presence of the saints at the day of judgment: ” Here stand I and these children the Lord has given me. I have not lost any of them whom thou has entrusted to me.” And again: “It was five talents thou gavest me, see how I have made profit of five talents besides.”Then you will deservedly hear the voice of God saying: “Well done, my good and faithful servant: since thou hast been faithful over little things, I have great things to commit to thy charge: come and share the joy of thy Lord.”

May God preserve you, most reverend brother.

Given on the fourth day of the kalends of November, in the twenty-third year of our loving and august lord Leo, by the grace of God emperor, in the twenty-third year of his consulship and the twentieth year of the Emperor Constantine, in the eighth indiction.