Pope Gregory the Great (590–604 A.D)
calls “Universal Pontiff” a profane title
For, as your venerable Holiness knows, this name of Universality was offered by the holy synod of Chalcedon to the pontiff of the Apostolic See which by the providence of God I serve(2). But no one of my predecessors has ever consented to use this so profane a title; since, forsooth, if one Patriarch is called Universal, the name of Patriarch in the case of the rest is derogated. But far be this, far be it from the mind of a Christian, that any one should wish to seize for himself that whereby he might seem in the least degree to lessen the honour of his brethren. While, then, we are unwilling to receive this honour when offered to us, think how disgraceful it is for any one to have wished to usurp it to himself perforce.
Wherefore let not your Holiness in your epistles ever call any one Universal, lest you detract from the honour due to yourself in offering to another what is not due.
Source: BOOK V, EPISTLE XLIII: TO EULOGIUS AND ANASTASIUS, BISHOPS from Pope Gregory the Great, online at EWTN. (You will need to scroll down to find the document)
Pope Gregory the Great renounces the title “Universal Pope”.
Your Blessedness has also been careful to declare that you do not now make use of proud titles, which have sprung from a root of vanity, in writing to certain persons, and you address me saying, As you have commanded. This word, command, I beg you to remove from my hearing, since I know who I am, and who you are. For in position you are my brethren, in character my fathers. I did not, then, command, but was desirous of indicating what seemed to be profitable. Yet I do not find that your Blessedness has been willing to remember perfectly this very thing that I brought to your recollection. For I said that neither to me nor to any one else ought you to write anything of the kind; and lo, in the preface of the epistle which you have addressed to myself who forbade it, you have thought fit to make use of a proud appellation, calling me Universal Pope. But I beg your most sweet Holiness to do this no more, since what is given to another beyond what reason demands is subtracted from yourself. For as for me, I do not seek to be prospered by words but by my conduct. Nor do I regard that as an honour whereby I know that my brethren lose their honour. For my honour is the honour of the universal Church: my honour is the solid vigour of my brethren. Then am I truly honoured when the honour due to all and each is not denied them. For if your Holiness calls me Universal Pope, you deny that you are yourself what you call me universally. But far be this from us. Away with words that inflate vanity and wound charity.
And, indeed, in the synod of Chalcedon and afterwards by subsequent Fathers, your Holiness knows that this was offered to my predecessors(1). And yet not one of them would ever use this title, that, while regarding the honour of all priests in this world, they might keep their own before Almighty God.
Source: BOOK VIII, EPISTLE XXX: TO EULOGIUS, BISHOP OF ALEXANDRIA online at EWTN. (You will need to scroll down to find the document)
Pope Gregory the Great criticizes use of the title “Universal Bishop”
and denies Peter was a “Universal Apostle”.
For to all who know the Gospel it is apparent that by the Lord’s voice the care of the whole Church was committed to the holy Apostle and Prince of all the Apostles, Peter. For to him it is said, Peter, lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep (John xxi. 17). To him it is said, Behold Satan hath desired to sift you as wheat; and I have prayed for thee, Peter, that they faith fail not. And thou, when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren (Luke xxii. 31). To him it is said, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever thou shalt bind an earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven (Matth. xvi. 18).
Lo, he received the keys of the heavenly kingdom, and power to bind and loose is given him, the care and principality of the whole Church is committed to him, and yet he is not called the universal apostle; while the most holy man, my fellow-priest John, attempts to be called universal bishop. I am compelled to cry out and say, O tempora, O mores!
Source: BOOK V, EPISTLE XX: TO MAURICIUS AUGUSTUS from Pope Gregory the Great (590–604), online at EWTN. (You will need to scroll down to find the document)
Pope Gregory the Great calls the title Universal “pestiferous”.
… Be it known then to your Fraternity that John, formerly bishop of the city of Constantinople, against God, against the peace of the Church, to the contempt and injury of all priests, exceeded the bounds of modesty and of his own measure, and unlawfully usurped in synod the proud and pestiferous title of oecumenical, that is to say, universal. …
… I exhort and entreat that not one of you ever accept this name, that not one consent to it, that not one write it, that not one admit it wherever it may have been written, or add his subscription to it; but, as becomes ministers of Almighty God, that each keep himself from this kind of poisoned infection, and give no place to the cunning lier-in-wait, since this thing is being done to the injury and rendering asunder of the whole Church, and, as we have said, to the condemning of all of you. For if one, as he supposes, is universal bishop, it remains that you are not bishops. …
Source: BOOK IX, EPISTLE LXVIII TO EUSEBIUS OF THESSALONICA from Pope Gregory the Great (590–604), online at New Advent. (You will need to scroll down to find the document)
Pope Gregory the Great declares title “Universal Priest” to be Antichrist.
Whosoever calls himself, or desires to be called, Universal Priest, is in his elation the precursor of Antichrist, because he proudly puts himself above all others. Nor is it by dissimilar pride that he is led into error; for, as that perverse one wishes to appear as God above all men, so whosoever this one is who covets being called sole priest, he extols himself above all other priests.
Source: Pope Gregory the Great (590–604), Letter to Emperor Mauricius Augustus (against assumption of title “universal” by Patriarch of Constantinople) in his Epistles, bk. 7, letter 33, trans. in NPNF, 2d series, Vol. 12, p. 226 (2d pagination).
Here is the above BOOK VII, EPISTLE XXXIII: TO MAURICIUS AUGUSTUS online at EWTN. (You will need to scroll down to find the document)