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A titular bishop is a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church who is not the head of a functioning diocese, but instead holds title to a titular see. Assigning titular sees serves two purposes. Since part of being a bishop means being the head of a church, titular sees serve that purpose for bishops without a diocese. At the same time, the office of titular bishop memorializes ancient churches that fell into the hands of non-Christian conquerers, formerly in partibus infidelium, or that were absorbed into other dioceses. These sees are granted to auxiliary bishops, missionary bishops, bishops who are vicars apostolic, and papal legates. As an example, when Bishop Gerald Kicanas was ordained in 1995, after being appointed as an auxiliary bishop to the Archdiocese of Chicago, he took up the titular see of Bela. Lacking actual authority or duties to a titular see, the titular bishop is asked to offer prayers for the current residents of the titular see several times a year.
There are exceptions to this rule. Both coadjutor bishops and Cardinal Bishops of suburbicarian dioceses are titular bishops, but both hold titles to existing dioceses. Coadjutors, for instance, hold the title of the diocese in which they assist. When Bishop Kicanas was subsequently appointed coadjutor of Tucson, Arizona in 2001, the Pope removed him from his titular see of Bela and gave it to Bishop Santiago Retamales, an auxiliary in Valparaiso, Chile . Bishop Kicanas meanwhile took the title "Coadjutor Bishop of Tuscon" without gaining a replacement titular see . Suburbicarian cardinals hold the title to their suburbicarian see, but while they do not govern their see they are obliged to give it their patronage. Angelo Cardinal Sodano is Titular Bishop of Albano , while Bishop Marcello Vallini is its actual diocesan bishop .
Occasionally, the procedure of naming a bishop to a titular see has been used by the Roman Catholic Church to strip of his responsibilities a bishop whose behavior it disapproved of. For instance, in 1995, Jacques Gaillot, bishop of Évreux in France, known for his activism on various social and political topics (the homeless, illegal aliens etc...), was named Bishop of Partenia, a titular see in Algeria.
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