(suijfaganeus) is the title applied to every ecclesiastic who has to assist his superior. In this way Alcuin explains the term in. a letter to Charlemagne: "Suffraganeus est nomen medice significationis; ideo nescimus quale fixum ei apponere debeamus ut presbyterorum, aut abbatum, aut diaconorum, aut caeterorum graduum inferiorum, si forte episcoporum nomen, qui aliquando vestrae civitati subjecti erant, addere debemus" (Opera, p.
1160). The term is also used as synonymous with vicarius (see Du Fresne, Glossirium, s.v.). It is given more especially to bishops, however, and in respect to them with a twofold reference. A suffiagan bishop is an episcopus in partibus infidelium emnployed as the vicar and assistant of a regular diocesan bishop; but the name is given to the latter also in view of the relation he sustains, if not exempt, SEE EXEMPTION, to his metropolitan. The relation sustained by all the suffragans of a province (conmprovincicales) together with their metropolitan, and the rights belonging to the latter in his relation to the suffragans and their subordinates, have been exactly determined, and are stated in Gratian, Causa 3, qu. 6, and Causa 9 qu. 3. Various decisions occur also in the decretals, which ordain that the consecration of a metropolitan shall be performed by all his suffragans. — The rights of metropolitans over their suffragans are limited. See Innocent III in c. 11, De Officio Judicis Ordinarii, 1, 31. —Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v. SEE ARCHBISHOP; SEE METROPOLITAN.
It thus appears that anciently suffragan bishops were all the city bishops of any province under a metropolitan, who were called his suffragans because they met at his command to give their suffrage, counsel, or advice in a provincial synod. In- this sense the word was used in-England at the time when Linwood wrote his Provinciale (in 1430): "They were called suffragans because they were bound to give their suffrage and assistance to the archbishop, being summoned to take part in his care, though not in the plenitude of his power." The suffragans were not the same as CHOREPISCOPI SEE CHOREPISCOPI (q.v.), or rural bishops. Thus it was also in other churches. The seventy bishops who were immediately subject to the bishop of Rome, as their primate or metropolitan, were called his suffragans, because they were frequently called to his synods. These bishops were called by the peculiar technical term libra, which stood for seventy. Their elections were regulated by the metropolitan, who either ordained them himself, or authorized their ordination. They were summoned by him to attend the provincial synods, and could not disobey such summons under pain of suspension, or some such canonical censure, which was left to the discretion of the metropolitan and the council. From the 13th to the 16th century there were in the English Church a class of bishops (1) holding nominal sees, titulars or in partibus infidelium, in Hungary, Greece, and Asia; (2) exiles, temporary or permanent, from bishoprics in Ireland or Scotland,who were called suffragans.
Bishops who had no metropolitan power first began to have suffragans under them in the 10th century. These were styled vicar-generals, vicegerents vice-episcopi, etc; Suffragan bishops were appointed in Germany for the ordination of inferior officers and the consecration and benediction of churches, altars, baptismal waters, etc. Some attempt was made in England, at the beginning of the Reformation, to restore the chorepiscopi, under the name of suffragan bishops. Act 26, Henry VIII, 1563-4, appointed several towns for suffragan sees. One suffragan bishop was consecrated for Nottingham, and another as bishop of Dover in 1870. A permissive act for bishops suffragan in Ireland was passed in the early part of the present century, and others have recently been consecrated in the colonies. See Bingham, Christ. Antiq. bk. 2, ch. 15 § 13-15; ch. 16:§ 12, 17; Coleman, Ancient Christianity, p. 139.