How Should We Address a Bishop Properly?
Question: I find the different ways by which we address our bishops and clergy very confusing. How do we properly address the dignitaries?
Answer: The formal style of address for bishops is “Your Lordship” or “My Lord”, though this is rapidly falling out of fashion. The honorific “Your Grace” is reserved for archbishops, except the apostolic nuncio, who is “Your Excellency” (a title used in the US for all archbishops instead of Your Grace, to confuse matters). Cardinals are referred to as “Your Eminence”, and popes, of course, as “Your Holiness” or “Holy Father”.
But today most bishops and cardinals prefer to be addressed less formally. There is no offence in calling them by their job title: Bishop, Archbishop, Cardinal. Except Pope Francis, who says he prefers to be addressed as “Padre”, or “Father”.
If you are writing an invitation or other communication that requires formalism (or you choose to use it), the proper usage is to prefix the names with the following honorifics:
- His Eminence (First Name) Cardinal (Surname)
- The Most Reverend (Most Rev.) Archbishop.
- The Right Reverend (Rt. Rev.) Bishop/Abbot
- The Reverend Mother (Name) for an abbess/prioress
- Priests: Reverend Father/Monsignor (Name)
- Deacons: Reverend Mr (Name) or Deacon (Name)
- Religious: Sister or Brother (Name). Add the religious order’s postnominals — that’s the abbreviation for their order, such as OP for Dominicans. If a priest belongs to a religious order, don’t neglect his postnominal.
This question was asked and answered in the October issue of The Southern Cross Magazine. Have a question? Email email@example.com
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