Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Proper Etiquette in Addressing Church Leaders

Recently I asked Matt Hardesty, a seminarian with St. Mary's, about proper etiquette in greeting a bishop:
Do you think you might have a chance to explain exactly what the procedure is when you meet a bishop? I've only ever had the opportunity to meet two bishops and I'm afraid that both times, I did not give a proper greeting.

This ignorant Catholic would be most appreciative.
Kindly, he obliged.
Hey Laura,

Good question. Both an archbishop and a bishop would be greeted as "Your Excellency" or "Your Grace" (very British). For example, one would greet Archbishop Kelly as "Your Excellency." In writing to him, for instance, about how great of a seminarian I am(only kidding), you would address the letter, "The Most Reverend Thomas C. Kelly, Archbishop of Louisville," with the salutation, "Your Excellency."

In terms of other niceties...It's an acceptable act of piety to genuflect before a bishop but I personally wouldn't unless I suspected he wouldn't mind (like Chaput or somebody). Then when he offers his hand to raise you up, reverently turn it, kiss his ring, and stand. If he'd rather you not do either, he'll probably let you but then politely tell you it's not necessary. If you don't genuflect, you could kiss his ring if he offers it. I wouldn't grab his hand and kiss it even if he offered it in a handshake (which is different than offering it for a kiss). got it? hehe

I was never sure if I was with the majority or minority in my ignorance but regardless, I think everyone should know how to address our Church leaders without scrambling for some scrap paper with instructions or sifting through sites trying to figure out who has it right.

So.. here it is. This is how you're supposed to greet our 'higher-ups':

Pope: Your Holiness, Most Holy Father, Holy Father
Cardinal: Your Eminence, Your Lordship
Archbishop: Your Excellency, Your Grace
Bishop: Your Excellency, Your Grace
Monsignor: Monsignor (hey, that one's easy!)
Priest: Father

(Source) I hope this has been somewhat helpful/informative. Now we can all be slightly less ignorant Catholics!


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