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As the Latin etymology suggests, the concept is related to the vote and those processes involving its casting (suffrag-), with implications of favor or support. The late Roman Empire from the time of Constantine already had the problem of financial patronage for votes, and while often uprooted, the practice as often revived. The church likewise knew the practice; in the negative sense, the suffragan was that bishop whose vote could be counted upon by his metropolitan in synod. On the positive side, in the English Church from the thirteenth century the term could identify any auxiliary bishop who did not have the right of succession, in contrast to the coadjutor-though usage does not always bear out the distinction.

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