The Epistle sent by the Bishop of Rome to Richard II, King of England, to persecute John
To his most dear son in Christ, Edward*, the illustrious king of England, health, &c.
The realm of England, which the most High hath put under your governance, a realm glorious for its power and abundance of all things, but still more glorious for its piety and faith, and reflecting the brightness of the sacred page, hath been wont ever to produce men endued with a right understanding of the holy Scriptures, grave in years, fervent in devotion, and defenders of the catholic faith: the which have instructed by wholesome precepts not only their own people, but the people of other countries also, and have directed them into the path of God’s commandments. But we have lately learned (to our great sorrow of heart) by the information of many trustworthy persons, that John Wickliff, rector of Lutterworth in the diocese of Lincoln, professor of divinity (would to God be were not rather a master of errors), hath run to such a detestable and abominable excess of folly, that he hath propounded and set forth certain conclusions full of errors, and containing manifest heresy, which tend to weaken and subvert the status of the whole church; some of which (albeit with a change in certain terms) seem to be identical with the perverse opinions and unlearned doctrine of Marsilius de Padua and John de Ghent, of cursed memory, whose book was reprobated and condemned by our predecessor of happy memory, pope John XXII.
Whereas, therefore, our venerable brethren the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London have received a special commandment from us by our authority to seize and commit to prison the aforesaid John, and to take and transmit to us his confession touching the said propositions or conclusions: and whereas they are known to need the favour and help of your highness in the prosecution of this business; therefore we request and earnestly entreat your majesty, who as well as your noble progenitors have bean wont to be chief defenders of the catholic faith, whose quarrel is involved in the present affair, that for the reverence you owe to God, to the said faith, to the apostolic see, and to our own person, you would vouchsafe to lend your countenance and aid to the said archbishop and bishop, and all others who shall prosecute this matter, assured that, beside the praise of men, you will obtain a divine reward, and the increased goodwill of us and the said see. Given at Rome St Mary the Greater, the 11th Kal. of June in the 7th year of our bishopric (AD 1377)
* This may have been a clerical slip in that the 7th year of Pope Gregory`s rule began 5 January 1377 and the bull was dated 22 May. Edward III died on 21 June. It may, of course, have been altered before service on the new king, Richard II. It could easily have taken a month to reach England from Rome.