Learn more about this significant occasion where Msgr. Albert Bahhuth, Father Matthew Elshoff, OFM. Cap., Father Brian Nunes and Father Slawomir Szkredka, will become auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Understanding Titular Churches
You might wonder why auxiliary bishops have titular churches. These are ancient but now-inactive churches from around the world, serving as a connection between the bishop and the universal Church.
Every bishop has to be the “bishop of” a particular place. So, while auxiliary bishops are appointed to serve as assistants to an archbishop of a specific archdiocese, they also must have some kind of diocese of their own. This is why they are assigned what is known as a “titular see”.
What is a Titular See?
Every diocese has a See city that gives the diocese its name. Over the course of Church history, see cities are transferred to other cities as populations shift and demographics change. Some diocesan sees are the victims of historical circumstances such as enemy invasion of Christian lands. Those bishops who were exiled still retained the “title” of their old diocese, because that is a necessary requirement for bishops. Still today, those cities that are no longer part of a diocese are not taken off the Church map completely, but they are known as “dead” see cities – also known as titular sees.
Many titular sees are in areas where once-thriving Christian communities have been suppressed or overtaken, often because they fell into the hands of non-Christian conquerors, were part of a schism, or the number of Catholics sharply declined or relocated to another part of the diocese.
In the Catholic Church’s teaching, a crucial part of the office of a bishop is being attached to the People of God in a given place, even if they don’t live there. When an auxiliary bishop is ordained for a purpose other than serving as the head of the diocese he is being ordained for, he is given the title of one of these “dead” see cities in recognition of his episcopal status.
Because these cities are no longer active in the diocese, the auxiliary bishops lack actual duties to their titular see, but as titular bishops, they are asked to offer prayers for the current residents of the titular see several times a year.
The Church’s practice of assigning titular sees symbolizes the bishop’s responsibility to care for the entire Church, not just a specific diocese. By understanding the significance of titular churches and their connection to auxiliary bishops, we gain a deeper appreciation of the Catholic Church’s enduring presence throughout her history and ongoing mission to share the Gospel with the entire world.