How to Address a Roman Catholic Bishop

How to Address a Roman Catholic Bishop

—–Envelope or address block on letter or email:
—–—–The Most Reverend (Full Name)
—–—–Bishop of (place)

—–—–Which looks like:
—–—–—–The Most Reverend Michael Francis Burbidge
—–—–—–Bishop of Arlington
—–—–—–1234 Glebe Road
—–—–—–Arlington, Virginia 67890

Letter salutation:
—–Dear Bishop (Surname):

Note: See below about address as Your Grace or Your Excellency.

See These Related Links: ----------Archbishop ----------Bishop ----------Brother ----------Cardinal ----------Deacon ----------Monsignor ----------Mother Superior ----------Nun | Sister ----------Pope ----------Priest

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

Is a Bishop Addressed as Your Grace?

Your site says bishops and archbishops are addressed in conversation as ‘Bishop (Name)’ or ‘Archbishop (Name)’.

Bishops and Archbishops are NEVER addressed in conversation as ‘Bishop So-and So’ or ‘Archbishop So-and-So’. They are properly addressed as ‘Your Excellency’ or simply ‘Excellency’. In Ireland, according to their custom, Bishops are addressed as ‘Your Grace’; however, even in this case, ‘Bishop’ is not used in conversation. Your book states only nuncios are referred to and addressed as ‘Excellency’. This is not the case.
—————– SM in California

Dear SM in California:

Addressing bishops as ‘Your Grace’ is a British form of address. In the Church of England bishops are granted the precedence of a Duke … and dukes and thus by courtesy … Anglican bishops – are addressed as ‘Your Grace’. [In the United States, the American branch of the church – the Episcopal Church in the USA – addresses its Presiding Bishop as ‘the Most Reverend (Full Name)’ and its other bishops as ‘the Right Reverend (Full Name)’. Both, in conversation and in a salutation, are ‘Bishop (Surname)’.

‘His/Her/Your Excellency’ is a courtesy title used by accredited diplomats who have presented their credentials to a foreign head-of-state as the single designated representative from another head-of-state. The Papal Nuncio is that person for the Vatican and is addressed as ‘Your Excellency’  … but other bishops are not.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says U.S. Catholic bishops are correctly addressed in writing as ‘the Most Reverend (Full Name)’ and orally as ‘Bishop (Surname)’.

 – Robert Hickey     How to Address a Roman Catholic Bishop

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

Isn't a Catholic Bishop Addressed as Excellency?

It seems that in practice Catholic archbishops and bishops are routinely addressed as "His/Your Excellency", in documents, letters, and speeches.  Is this just a lack of awareness of the proper etiquette or has the practice changed?

---------------– Kevin D.

Dear Kevin D.: Well, I too have seen lots of sources suggest Catholic bishops and archbishops are addressed as Your Excellency.  But if you ask the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and look at the biographies of U.S. Catholic bishops and archbishops on their own websites – they use The Most Reverend (Full Name) and the somewhat less formal Most Reverend (Full Name).

I've reviewed many sources, but never found an official style manual issued by the Catholic Church.  When there is not one, here's what I do – (1) I go to the headquarters and ask “how do you prefer to have the members of your hierarchy addressed?” (2) Then I check other first-rate sources to confirm.  What is recommended and what I see in use by the best sources is the form I publish.

(1) So The Most Reverend is what the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says is correct for others to use. (2) Then I called lots of bishops offices and asked the same question. Typically the public affairs writer or the Bishop’s secretary really knows the answer. They consistently say The Most Reverend. I find they are the most aware of formal forms of address in writing. A receptionist will be cooperative and give you a quick answer, but may not really know.

That's the process I follow every time.  This is what I use when contacting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or the Sikhs, the U.S. Armed Services or the European Union.

 – Robert Hickey     How to Address a Roman Catholic Bishop

See These Related Links: ----------Archbishop ----------Bishop ----------Brother ----------Cardinal ----------Deacon ----------Monsignor ----------Mother Superior ----------Nun | Sister ----------Pope ----------Priest

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"