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St. Ethelbert

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Birth: 560
Death: 616

Sometime before 588, Ethelbert, the pagan king of England's Anglo-Saxons, married a Christian from France, the princess Bertha. When years later the missionary Saint Augustine of Canterbury arrived in England from Rome in 597 to undertake the evangelization of the country, Ethelbert came to hear him speak. Although he was not yet willing to become a Christian himself, Ethelbert gave Augustine permission to catechize his people. Eventually the king did embrace Christianity. In 601, Pope Saint Gregory the Great wrote to encourage him in his new faith: "Zealously foster the grace that God has given you, and press on with the task of extending the Christian faith among the people committed to your charge. Make their conversion your first concern...God will most surely grant you his rewards in heaven if you faithfully proclaim his name and truth upon earth." Ethelbert contributed to the advancement of the Church, erecting new churches and the monastery of Canterbury later known as Saint Augustine's Abbey. He also helped to bring about the conversion to Christianity of a fellow monarch, the East Saxon king Sabert.


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