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A letter from Hadrian II (868)



Translated letter: 

No one doubts , clearly, that there is no burden that the Church, with the power divinely given to it, can not absolve for those desisting, and release them from penance, to whom it is said: Whatever you have discharged on earth will be discharged in heaven: and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven [Matth.18:18]: in which are included all things, however much and whatever they are. Because it has been reasonably observed also in your sentence by which though you were obligated, yet by the report of many but especially of our most beloved son Louis, the most merciful emperor, in whom faith must be put in all things, we have learned you are said to have come to your senses from the blemish by which you were held bound, and to have departed from the obstinacy in which you seemed tied; know that the viscera of piety of the apostolic see are open to you, and rejoice that you are loosed from the chains of anathema and excommunication as well as restored to the society and communion of all Christians, by the authority of God and the blessed magnates of the apostles; so that permission is given to you, with God as source, to enter the church from now on, and to pray, and feast or speak with other Christians; as relates to the society of said king(1), because of the ingenuity of the ancient enemy, there must be absolutely no agreement of adhering/continuing. Know however that the perseverance of prayers and incomparable love of our loveable and spiritual son, the already mentioned and always to be remembered emperor, obtained such benefit so swiftly for you, though ecclesiastical moderation demands it, which should always be inflexible to the uncorrected, and flexible to the corrected. His request, clearly, as it was believed to be just, so could not be postponed.
Truly, strive to defend yourselves from the rest, so you may deserve to acquire the gift of absolution, which you are perceived to seize on earth, truly in heaven with God as source; for if you show yourselve to be worthy of absolution before human eyes, yet you remain bound in the sight of God, you will not loose the knot, nor obtain mercy; rather you will be bound by a stronger obligation because of the dissimulation. For it is offered by divine oracle that man sees in the face, God however looks into the heart [1Reg.16:7]. Therefore do not delight in the lowest, but always look on the highest things in the heart: fallen things are what is seen; what is not seen are the eternals [2Cor.4:18]. Do not, I ask, lose heavenly joys for earthly visible one, which indeed are not enough to be considered. Let no one flatter you: for those who bless you, deceive you. Finally, with however many veils justice and truth are hidden, yet it emits the splendor of its light outside, nor can it be altogether surrounded for very long by the cloud of perverse defense. Because with God favoring, by the zeal of the apostolic see as well as of the most righteous prince, namely our dearest son, whom wrong never pleased in any way, and could not please in any way, with sollicitude it will extend its rays as the radiance of the sun.

Original letter: 

Nemo plane dubitat nullum facinus esse, quod Ecclesia, data sibi divinitus potestate, ab eo desistentibus non possit absolvere, et poenitentibus relaxare, cui dicitur: Quaecumque dimiseritis super terram, dimissa erunt et in coelis: et quaecumque solveritis super terram, soluta erunt et in coelis [Matth.18:18]: in quibuscumque omnia sint, quantacumque et qualiacumque sint. Quod etiam in sententia tua rationabiliter observandum est, qua licet fueris obligata, quia tamen, sicut multorum, sed praecipue dilectissimi filii nostri Hludovici clementissimi Augusti, cui fides in omnibus adhibenda est, relatione didicimus, a naevo, quo tenebaris obstricta, resipuisse diceris, et ab obstinatione, qua videbaris annexa, discessisse narraris; pietatis tibi viscera noveris et Apostolicae Sedis aperta, et tam vinculis anathematis et excommunicationis exutam, quam cunctorum Christianorum, Dei et beatorum primorum Apostolorum auctoritate, societati redditam, atque communioni te gaude reductam; ita ut deinceps Ecclesiam ingrediendi, et orandi, convivandique, seu cum caeteris Christianis loquendi sit tibi, auctore Deo, data licentia; praefati dumtaxat Regis societati, propter antiqui hostis versutias, nullo pacto penitus adhaerendi. Quod tamen beneficium, quamquam hoc moderatio flagitasset Ecclesiastica, quae sicut incorrectis inflexibilis, ita correctis semper debet esse flexibilis, instantiam precum et incomparabilem dilectionem desiderabilis et spiritualis filii nostri jam memorati et jugiter memorandi Augusti, tam tibi celeriter impetrasse cognosce. Cujus scilicet postulatio, sicut nonnisi justa creditur, ita quoquomodo postponenda non ducitur.
Verum tu sic te de caetero stude munire, ut donum solutionis, quod in terra percipere cerneris, in coelo, Deo auctore, veraciter capere merearis: nam si te coram humanis oculis absolvendam exhibes, et coram Dei conspectibus obligata consistis, nec nodo cares, nec veniam impetras; quinimmo et pro simulatione potiori nexu ligaberis. Etenim divino fertur oraculo, quia homo videt in faciem, Deus autem cor intuetur [1Reg.16:7]. Ergo ne delecteris in infimis, sed superna cordis intuere semper obtutibus: Caduca sunt quae cernuntur; quae vero non videntur, aeterna consistunt [2Cor.4:18]. Noli, rogo, pro terrenis coelestia, pro visibilibus gaudiis perdere gaudia, quae quidem nec cogitari sufficiunt. Nullus tibi blandiatur: qui enim te beatificant, ipsi te decipiunt. Denique quantiscumque velaminibus justitia et veritas occultetur, quandoque tamen splendorem foras suae claritatis emittet, nec poterit omnino diutius nubilo scaevae defensionis obduci. Quod favente Deo, tam Sedis Apostolicae studio, quam rectissimi Principis, carissimi videlicet filii nostri, cui nunquam tortitudo quaelibet aliquo modo placuit, sed nec placere quoquo modo poterit, solicitudine, radios suos, ut solis candor, extendet.

Historical context: 

The pope, Hadrian II, restores her to communion with the church, at the request of emperor Louis, since she is said to have come to her senses, that is to have stopped living with Lothar II in a union that was condemned by the previous pope, Nicholas I, as adulterous, though Lothar claimed it was a marriage that predated his marriage with Theutberga.

Scholarly notes: 

(1)This must refer to Lothar.

Printed source: 

HGF 7.441