Greeting the Bishop


The Bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake is coming down for our Rite of Election. I asked my sponsor what is the right way to greet him, and he told me to just shake his hand and say “Nice to meet you Bishop”. Well I’ve read other places that its proper to bow on your left knee and kiss his ring. I would rather be more formal when greeting a successor of the Apostles than just “nice to meet you”. So what should I do? If everyone just shakes his hand, than I’ll probably look silly kneeling and kissing his ring. But to be honest, if everybody else just shakes his hand, I’ll still at least kiss his ring. I don’t really care what others think, I think a prince of the Church should deserve more formality than a hand-shake.

Am I ok in thinking this?


Most just shake the Bishop’s hand. BTW the term “prince of the Church”, usually refers to a Cardinal, not simply a bishop. You can be a bit more formal with a Cardinal, but any I have met I have simply shaken their hand.


You are correct in stating that a bishop is a successor to the apostles. The bishop is of the same rank as an apostle. The proper greeting or title when addressing a bishop is “Your Excellency” It is OK to kiss his ring as a sign of respect. The cardinals are princes of the Church and are addressed as “Your Eminence”


BARF. It makes them sound so powerful and above us. I guess it’s because of having no experience of a monarchy governing me.


our archbishop is a cardinal and normally people greet him with a handshake, as he usually extends his hand for one first. am sure he would be overly embarrassed if anyone knelt to kiss his ring.


The respect shown to those in the hierarchy is for the position they hold. These men are in these positions because they have been chosen by the pope for those positions. The pope, is the Vicar of Christ here on earth. He too is given great respect for his position .
Prayers & blessings
Deacon Ed B



While Deacon Ed is correct on the proper style and way to address/greet a bishop or cardinal, you will soon find that most bishops prefer a simple handshake. While “Your Excellency” is the proper way to address a bishop, in the U.S. addressing a bishop as “Bishop Smith” is not only acceptable, but often preferred by the bishops themselves.



In a formal setting, the proper thing is to kiss the Bishop’s ring and address him as Your Excellency or as Your Eminence if he’s a Cardinal. If the Bishop is sitting on his Episcopal chair with his vestments on, this is a formal setting. You kiss his ring and address him are Excellency or Eminence if he’s a Cardinal.

If you’re outside of the United States the proper title is Monsignore (My Lord), except in the UK, where the title is Your Grace.

In the Vatican all bishops are Msgr. and Cardinals are Eminence.

In a less formal setting, such as a reception, one can address him as Bishop Smith or Cardinal Smith and shake his hand.

For those who may think that the title is too solemn, the proper title for a president is Excellency too. We do not use it in the USA, but our Presidents have been addressed by this title when traveling abroad.

It has nothing to do with royalty. It is a way of identifying the office that the person occupies.

Why call the President’s wife “First Lady”? How do we know that she’s a lady? Becaue it identifies her place in society. It’s not about her as a person.

For the OP, don’t be afraid. Bishops are usually quite friendly chaps. They don’t bite. I’ve worked with dozens during the last 30+ years and lived with two, one a cardinal.

Have a great time.


JR :slight_smile:


So should I just go ahead and kiss his ring, regardless of what everyone else does? Just because everyone else does it, doesn’t mean I have to. I wanna show respect to the man who is electing me into Mother Church


Follow the protocol. If everyone is shaking his hand, then shake his hand. If everyone is kissing his ring, then do that.

When dealing with the Church’s hierarchy, they prefer that you follow the protocol for the time and place. The local priest or Director of Religious Education will set the pace by going first. Everyone follows suit.

The one thing that you never want to do around bishops or Cardinals is break with protocol. They don’t like it. It gives them the impression that you’re singularizing yourself. You do what everyone else is doing.

Usually, people will do whatever the Bishop prefers and his preferences are usually well known in a diocese.

For example, in our diocese, the Bishop does not like to be called Excellency or to have his ring kissed. He likes to be called Bishop and have his hand shaken.

Cardinal O’Malley in Boston prefers to be called Cardinal Sean and have his hand shaken, because he is a Capuchin Brother. Franciscan Friars rarely use last names.

Go with the flow and this way you don’t singularize yourself. You won’t get a quizzical look from the Bishop. You don’t want to make him feel uncomfortable using a greeting that he does not like or is not used to.

JR :slight_smile:


When we met the Bishop last year (RCIA as well), everyone just walked up, greeted him with a handshake. I, personally, felt that was too laid back, so I just hestitated for a second, bowed at my waist before shaking his hand.

I bow toward the priest at every Mass as he passes, I figured that I could show that same respect for our Bishop.

No one may notice, but you will know that you’ve acknowledged him in you heart. :slight_smile:

God bless, Dana


It helps us show our humility and obedient to those whom God anointed.


Our hierarchy does not govern us. They guide us. We see in our bishops, modern day apostles. Are they perfect? Obviously no. Don’t forget, even one of the original twelve apostles betrayed Jesus. Jesus was perfect. Look what they did to him. But by this, look what he did for us.
Prayers & blessings
Deacon Ed B


Dear Reff,
While this post is very old I wanted to chime in for future reference if no one minds.
I happen to be in your Diocese and I happen to be the DRE at one of the parishes in Utah.
First, welcome home, no matter how long it’s been. I too am a convert. So, I’m a 14 year old Catholic. Utah has many of us!
I thought you might like to know that our Bishop isn’t very formal. As DRE my first year I asked the same question you have so that our Confirmandi will address him in the most proper way possible. Plus I’m a southerner and a military wife, so in my head you can never go wrong with being too proper. However I was told that our Bishop doesn’t care for that stuff really. And I’ve noticed even with Utah military families, most here aren’t super concerned with what others deem proper.
He’d prefer we just address him as Bishop. I was told not to have the kids kneel and kiss him ring, that it would make him uncomfortable.
I’m very interested in what you eventually chose to do. To be totally honest, I love that you wanted to do it right. While someone stated that it seems they are above us, I totally disagree. In the military my husband has to salute anyone with a rank above his even if the man behind the rank is a terrible person. It is his rank, not the man that is being saluted/honored. I see it somewhat like that. We will have Confirmation at our parish tomorrow night. Before the Bishop comes I will explain to them that his position as our Shepard (our highest Shepard in Utah) deserves our utmost respect at all time. This is to include our behavior in his presence. His position alone is one worthy of our honor, even if like us all he is just a man and capable of sin…WE ALL ARE.
Thank you for your question even from 5 years ago. It helps us all remember who (the title) we have in our presence and how we should act. I tell our kids they are a reflection of not just Catholics in Utah, but of their parents, their parish, me and Father. Heck I don’t even let kids call me by my first name…and I think I’m alone in that in Utah.
God Bless,
Another Utah Catholic


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit