Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 2016
Monk Rufinus is to be ordained firstly a subdeacon, and later a presbyter, to officiate in the basilica of St Laurence in Sabinum (Central Italy). Gelasius I, Letter 41, Rome, AD 492/496.
Letter 41
Gelasius Bono episcopum Sabinati.
In parochia tua basilica sancti Laurentii, quae in possessione filii et consiliarii nostri viri magnifici Theodori fundata est, officium presbyteri deesse cognovimus. Et quia praefatus filius noster nobis retulit invenisse Rufinum quemdam monachum olim sibi vita e moribus comprobatum, et hunc postulat ibi presbyterum consecrari, quod subito fieri nos praerogata observantia non acquievimus. Ideoque dilectio tua his acceptis sabbato veniente faciat eum subdiaconum, et si Deus voluerit et vixerimus, mediana hebdomada presbyterum faciemus: quatenus superveniente festivitate paschali sacra mysteria in memorata basilica a persona competenti valeant adimpleri.
(ed. Thiel 1868: 454)
Letter 41
Gelasius to Bonus, the bishop of Sabinum.
We learnt that in your diocese there is no ministry of presbyter in the basilica of St Laurence, which is the possession of our son and counsellor, magnificent man Theodore. Our said son [Theodore] explained to us that he had found a certain monk, Rufinus, of already proven life and morals, and he asked for him to be consecrated presbyter. According to the earlier rules, we have not agreed to this happening immediately. Therefore we ask Your Charity to make him a subdeacon on the Saturday after accepting this letter. And if God wants it and we live on, we shall make him a presbyter in the middle of the week. In this way, the holy mysteries will be celebrated by an adequate person in the coming Paschal festivities.
(trans. S. Adamiak)


What appears clearly from the letter is the opposition of Gelasius to the possibility of a lay man (even if he was a monk of proven reputation) advancing immediately to the presbyterate. However, the solution proposed by Gelasius is not easy to understand: we do not know who should ordain Rufinus after his subdeaconate (the manuscripts have two versions: "fac", which indicates Bonus, and "faciemus", which indicates Gelasius); the meaning of "mediana hebdomada" is also unclear, especially because we do not know where exactly Bonus was bishop. It sounds hardly possible that Rufinus would have been made a subdeacon on Saturday in the region of Sabinum, and a presbyter on the following Wednesday in Rome.

Place of event:

  • Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

About the source:

Author: Gelasius I
Title: Epistulae, Letters
Origin: Rome (Rome)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Gelasius I was the bishop of Rome between AD 492 and 496.
Thiel A. ed., Epistulae Romanorum pontificum genuinae et quae ad eos scriptae sunt a S. Hilario usque ad Pelagium II, 1, Braunsberg 1868, 287-510.
B. Neil, P. Allen edd.,  The Letters of Gelasius I (492-496): Pastor and Micro-Manager of the Church of Rome, Turnhout 2014.
B. Neil, P. Allen edd.,  The Letters of Gelasius I (492-496): Pastor and Micro-Manager of the Church of Rome, Turnhout 2014.


Former ecclesiastical career - Lower clergy
Functions within the Church - Rural presbyter
Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Reasons for ordination - Pastoral needs of the Christian community
Act of ordination
Ritual activity - Eucharist
Relation with - Noble
Former ecclesiastical career - None
Monastic or common life
Reasons for ordination - Patronage
Functions within the Church - Presbyter in a lay foundation
Impediments or requisits for the office - Ecclesiastical career
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER2016,