How to Address the Pope

How to Address the Pope or Pontiff | Roman Catholic

—-Traditional envelope or address block on letter or email:
——–His Holiness
—-—-The Pope
—-—-The Apostolic Palace
—-—-00120 Vatican City

—-Contemporary envelope or address block on letter or email::
——–His Holiness
——–Pope Francis
——–The Apostolic Palace
——–00120 Vatican City

—-Letter salutation:
—-—-Your Holiness:
—-—-Most Holy Father:

—-—-Your Holiness


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Address a Pope If You Are Non-Christian?

What is the appropriate form of address for the Pope in a letter from a non-Christian?
—-—-—-– DM

Dear DM,
Use the forms of address shown above. When you are outside the culture, using the standard forms of address shows respect the culture.  Everyone – subjects and non-subjects – addresses the Queen of the UK as ‘Your Majesty’.   ‘Holy Father’ is a typical salutation used by Catholics in correspondence. You might prefer to use ‘Your Holiness’.

Use the complimentary close ‘Very Respectfully’.  It is a standard closing for correspondence to high officials.

– Robert Hickey   How to Address the Pope


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Introduce the Pope?

I will be meeting the Pope. If I introduce him, would you say, ‘May I introduce the Holy Father, Pope (Name)’ or say, ‘May I present His Holiness’ and not his name in the introduction?

—-~ Meeting the Pope

Dear Meeting the Pope:

Call me psychic, but I doubt you will be introducing the Pope.  But that said, the Holy Father is so high he is never introduced to anyone: individuals are presented to the Holy Father. He requires no introduction: anyone about to meet the Pope already knows who he is.

When he enters the room he is announced …. an aide says so all can hear ‘His Holiness’ … and that’s pretty much it.

Perhaps you are being introduced to the Pope? In that case the introducer would say something like  ‘Your Holiness may I present (your name).’   When you acknowledge the introduction, his name is ever used.  If you address him – say, ‘Your Holiness.’

‘Not using the name’ is standard when addressing very high officials. For example, the Queen of the United Kingdom is never addressed as Queen Elizabeth … she is addressed as ‘Your Majesty’ The President of the United States (POTUS) is addressed as ‘Mr. President’ in direct conversation: not ‘President (Name)’ in spite what you have encountered in the media.

– Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Address a Retired Pope?

How do you address a former pope of the Roman Catholic Church? I bet you never considered that!
————-– B. E. in Georgia

Dear B.E.,

I did not considered it, it seems like the Roman Catholic Church didn’t either.  The Church didn’t define a form of address for a retired pope in its modern literature.

I don’t define how anyone is addressed … I just keep track of how current organizations address their current and former officials – so those of us outside their domain can correctly address them.

Now Roman Catholic Church has established there can be a former office holder.

Some would have guessed that Pope Benedict would return to the form of address to which he was entitled before assuming office: cardinal. There are retired cardinals. Having a retired cardinal addressed in the same way as current cardinals presents no confusion, Being a cardinal is not a singular (only-one-office-holder-at-a-time) position.

—-#1) For example, when Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated the throne to her son Willem-Alexander in 2013, she returned to the form of address to which she was entitled prior to taking office: Princess.

—-#2) However, in the UK, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (1900-2002), the Queen Mother (mother of Queen Elizabeth II, the present British sovereign (chief of state), and the widow of King George VI) – continued to be addressed as Your Majesty when her daughter assumed the throne without much mishap. In Belgium where for a period before the death of Fabiola in 2014, there were three queens: Queen Fabiola (1960-1993), her successor Queen Paola (1993-2013), and the current Queen Mathilde (2013- ), all addressed as Your Majesty.

These situations are a bit different, but they show how other hierarchies have dealt with titles when there is more than one office holder in a typically one-office-holder-at-a-time office.

– Robert Hickey

See These Related Links:
—-—-Mother Superior
—-—-Nun | Sister


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.
___What I don’t cover on this site are many things I do cover in my book: all the rules of forms of address, about names, international titles, precedence, complimentary closes, details on invitations, place cards, all sorts of introductions, etc. I hope you’ll get a copy of the book if you’d like the further detail.

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”