An auxiliary bishop, in the Roman Catholic Church, is an additional bishop assigned to a diocese because the diocesan bishop is unable to perform his functions, the diocese is so extensive that it requires more than one bishop to administer, or the diocese is attached to a royal or imperial office needing the diocesan bishop's protracted location at court. According to canon law, no bishop can be ordained without title to a certain and distinct episcopal see which he governs either actually or potentially, therefore auxiliary bishops are titular bishops to sees that no longer exist.
Canon law requires that the diocesan bishop appoints each auxiliary bishop as vicar general or episcopal vicar of the diocese.
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“On the middle of that quiet floor
sits a fleet of small black ships,
square-rigged, sails furled, motionless,
their spars like burned matchsticks.”
—Elizabeth Bishop (19111979)