How do you address a cardinal?


I’ve just had the pleasure of attending a social evening, not a Mass, with George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney. I was talking to him afterward and while I remembered to address him as “Your Eminence” I have a feeling I should have done something else.

Other people there also kissed his ring. Some did, some didn’t. To be perfectly honest Cardinal Pell didn’t seem bothered either way, and he certainly didn’t stand on ceremony or anything.

What didn’t help was that the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, was also in attendance and I’m sure I referred to the Cardinal as “Your Grace” and the Archbishop as “Your Eminence” at least once!

What is the correct protocol here?


Please relax. Members of the ecclesial hierarchy do appreciate the courtesy of their proper titles; but, as you noted with the two whom you met, most members do not stand on protocol in an overly-rigid manner. So long as you do your best to treat them in a courteous, respectful manner, small slips will be politely ignored.

For those who are curious, these are the protocol formalities: Bishops and archbishops are addressed either as “Bishop (or Archbishop) [last name],” or as “Your Excellency.” Cardinals are addressed as either “Cardinal [last name]” or as “Your Eminence.”

Ring-kissing is not expected or required anymore, but those who wish to do so as an act of reverence for the authority of the office may request permission to do so. Otherwise, it is the cardinal’s (or bishop’s) prerogative to offer his hand for a handshake. If a hand is extended to you, presume that it is for a handshake. If you want to kiss the ring instead, ask.

**Recommended reading:

How do I address a bishop?**

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