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Canon 374 §2 of the Code of Canon Law grants to bishops the possibility to join together several neighboring parishes into vicariates forane, or deaneries.
Each deanery is headed by a vicar forane, also called a dean, who is, according to the definition provided in canon 553, a priest appointed by the bishop after consultation with the priests exercising ministry in the deanery. Canon 555 defines the duties of a dean as:
- promotion and coordination of the common pastoral activity within the deanery;
- seeing that the clerics of the deanery lead a life in harmony with their state in life and perform their duties with diligence;
- seeing that religious functions follow Church norms;
- seeing that the good appearance of churches and sacred furnishings are maintained;
- seeing that parish books are correctly managed;
- seeing that the parish rectory is well maintained;
- seeing that clerics, following the norms of the diocese and the norms of Canon 272, attend theological lectures, meetings, or conferences;
- making sure that the priests of the deanery have access to spiritual helps and aid in difficult pastoral circumstances; and
- making sure that pastors in his deanery are well cared for when they are sick or dying.
Additionally, the dean must follow the particular norms of the diocese. Canon 555 also particularly mentions that a dean must visit the parishes of the district in accord with the regulations made by the diocesan bishop.