addressing a bishop

I would like to know the proper way to address a bishop when you encounter him in a social setting or just at church but not during mass. I have heard someone call him “your grace”. Is this correct in the above cases.

Assuming you are in the US, the typical way is “excellence” or even better “your excellency.”

HOWEVER, many US bishops tend to like “Bishop” or “Bishop LASTNAME”.

Since they are bishops I would start with the more formal address and move to “bishop N” if and when they indicate they prefer it or it seems that you are the only one who is using the more formal address and the bishop doesnt seem to mind the less formal address. In general go with whatever they want unless you are simply uncomfortable with it for a good reason (i.e. moving from Exclennce to Bishop N dont sweat it, moving from Bishop N to Bishop Bob or “just bob” and I could understand discomfort)

Traditionally, a bishop would be addressed as “Your Excellency” and an archbishop as “Your Grace,” and in other English speaking countries outside North America, it is often “Your Lordship” or “My Lord” (the English definition of the Italian “Monsignor”) Most American bishops, particularly those in the west, seem to prefer to be addressed as (Arch)Bishop N., and the customary kissing of his ring is fairly rare west of the Mississippi, although it is common elsewhere in the world. In writing, however, I would address the bishop as “Your Excellency.”

thanx for filling me in

Proper form for addressing a Bishop is “Your Excellency,” and in the case of an Archbishop, “Your Grace” I’m in the Archdiocese of Mobile, and when I have addressed the Archbishop, I simply say “Archbishop”. That works here, and my Archbishop is very approachable, and easy to talk to.

My mom once addressed a bishop as Father because she didn’t recognize him. He took it very well.

I go with “Your Excellence.” It always brings a smile to our Bishop Emeritus’s face when I call him that. No one else seems to.

what about a cardinal? I’ve been told that Eminance is the proper address, but I can never remember…

Yes, that’s right. It’s spelled “Eminence.” You would address him as “Your Eminence” in person, and on a letter, “His Eminence, FIRSTNAME Cardinal LASTNAME, Archbishop of PLACE.” In recent years, it has also become acceptable to change the order to “Cardinal FIRSTNAME LASTNAME.”


Adressing archbishops as “Your Grace” is, while probably more widespread because of the empire, a British custom, and Americans do no wrong using “Your Excellency” for all Latin bishops - no matter the see - who are not cardinals.

You’re right, but I forgot to mention it because I rarely run into cardinals. There’s also Your Holiness, but very few of us get the opportunity to try that one out.

Most refer to our Bishop in Memphis as Bishop Steib or even Bishop Terry. I think he likes using his first name. He’s really a wonderful man BTW! Very jovial and sweet!

Ah, yes, i’ve used “his holiness” before, but never “your holiness.” Something they don’t tell you about papal audiences: you don’t ACTUALLY meet the pope unless you’re more important than I am. Still it was an incredible experience which I recommend to anyone.

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