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.
Note: See my post “Is a Bishop Addressed as Your Grace?” on the page on ‘Bishop, Catholic’ for more on how Your Excellency
is the correct form of address for bishops in the Church of England.
(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