p. 73b Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great.
The Month of September, Indiction IX., Being the First Year of His Ordination.
To all the Bishops of Sicily.
Gregory, servant of the servants of God 1297 , to all the bishops constituted throughout Sicily.
We have plainly perceived it to be very necessary that, even as our predecessors thought fit to do, we should commit all things to one and the same person; and that, where we cannot be present ourselves, our authority should be represented through him to whom we send our instructions. Wherefore, with the help of God, we have appointed Peter, subdeacon of our See, our delegate in the province of Sicily. Nor can we doubt as to the conduct of him to whom, with the help of God, we are known to have committed the charge of the whole patrimony of our church.
This also we have plainly perceived to be a thing that ought to be done; that once in the year your whole fraternity should assemble, at Syracuse or Catana, receiving, as we have charged him, the honour due to you; to the end that, together with the aforesaid Peter, subdeacon of our See, you may settle with due discretion whatever things pertain to the advantage of the churches of the province, or to the relief of the necessities of the poor and oppressed, or to the admonition of all, and the correction of those whose transgressions may peradventure be proved. From which council far be animosities, which are the nutriment of crimes, and may inward grudges die away, and that discord of souls which is beyond measure execrable. Let concord well-pleasing to God, and charity, approve you as His priests. Conduct all things, therefore, with such deliberation and calmness that yours may most worthily be called an Episcopal Council.
“Sanctus Gregorius primus omnium se principio epistolarum suarum servum servorum. Dei satis humiliter definivit.” (Joan Diac. in Vit. S. Greg. l. ii. c. 1). The designation, however, had been used by others before him, as by Pope Damasus (Ep. IV. ad Stephanum et Africæ Episcopos), and Augustine (Ep. ad Vitalem). Gregory may have been the first to use it habitually. It is true that in the Registrum Epistolarum we find it four times only, viz., in the headings of Epistles I. 1, I. 36, VI. 51, XIII. 1. But it may have been omitted in the copies of his letters preserved at Rome. This is probable from the fact that it occurs in the letters relating to the English Mission as given by Bede, though absent from the same letters in the Registrum.