Addressing a letter to a member of the Catholic Church is tricky as there are many types of clergy. But it's important to follow the right protocol if you want to convey a respectable image. Read on to find out how to address letters to different members of the clergy.
Part 1 of 3: Writing a Letter to a Priest
Step 1. Address a letter to a priest
Write on the envelope: the reverend's first name, middle initial and last name, or write the full name. Don't forget to write “reverend” first. Example: “Reverend Marco Antônio de Moreira”.
- The greeting should be Dear Reverend. To be even more polite, treat the priest as “Reverendissimo”. If it is a formal letter, say "Reverend (and last name)" as a greeting or "Dear Reverend".
- If you know the religious well, say “Dear Padre” or “Dear Padre (and his surname)”. End the letter with "Respectfully (and your name)." It is also possible to end the letter with "Respectfully (and your name)."
Step 2. Address a letter to a priest of the religious order
On the envelope, write “Rev. First name, middle name and last name” and put the letters that designate its order.
- The main difference here is to put the initials of the religious order, such as "Reverend (first name), O.F.M. or "Reverend (first and last name), O.F.M." Example: "Reverend Leonardo G. Abreu, S.J." (In this example, “S.J.” refers to the Society of Jesus.
- The greeting should be "Dear Reverend". Complete the letter with "Sincerely, and your name".
Part 2 of 3: Addressing Letters to Other Catholic Leaders
Step 1. Write to the Pope
Address the envelope correctly; the Pope is the highest leader in the Catholic hierarchy. Address the envelope to "His Holiness Pope Francis." It is also acceptable to write to "The Supreme Pontiff, His Holiness Pope Francis."
- The greeting of the letter should say “Most Holy Pope” or “His holiness”. When speaking, address the pope as "his holiness." The Pope's address is Apostolic Palace, 00120, Vatican City”.
- Complete the letter properly. Catholics would say, "I have the honor to express myself with the deepest respect, Your Holiness, your most obedient and humble servant, and your name."
- If you are not a Catholic, it would be best to conclude the letter with “Your Excellency, Yours sincerely, and Your Name”; or "I cherish all the best, best regards, and your name".
Step 2. Write to a Cardinal
Address the envelope of your letter to “His Eminence (Christian name) Cardinal (surname).
- Use the greeting “Your Eminence”. Cardinals come right after the Pope in the Catholic hierarchy. When addressing one, also refer to the cardinal as His Eminence.
- If you are Catholic, end the letter with "Asking His Eminence's Blessing, Yours sincerely, and your name."
Step 3. Send a letter to an archbishop
Address the envelope to “His Excellency, Reverend Archbishop (first name, middle initial and surname) of the city from which he is ordained.
- The greeting should be “Your Excellency”. When addressing yourself verbally, refer to the religious as Archbishop or His Excellency.
- Conclude the letter with: "Asking His Excellency's Blessing, Yours truly, and Your Name." It is also possible to end the letter with "Respectfully, and your name".
Step 4. Communicate with a bishop
Write on the envelope, as in this example: "His Excellency, The Most Reverend William A. Scully, D.D. Bishop of Baltimore." Or: "His Excellency, Most Reverend Bishop William Scully of Baltimore."
- The greeting used must be His Excellency.
- Conclude the letter: "Asking for His Excellency's blessing, Yours sincerely, and Your Name." Alternatively, end with “Respectfully, and your name”.
Step 5. Address a letter to a Catholic Sister or Brother
To write to a Brother, say “Brother (first name), middle initial, last name” and put the initials in his order.
- The greeting should say “Dear Brother Last Name”. Conclude the letter by saying "Sincerely, your first and last name".
- To write to a Sister, say “Sister first name, middle initial and last name” on the envelope. The greeting should be “Dear Sister Last Name”. Conclude the letter: "Respectfully, your first and last name."
Step 6. Send a letter to an abbot
Write to him like this: Most Reverend First Name, Last Name” and put the letters that designate the order, such as Abbot of a specific place.
- The greeting is Most Reverend Abbot.
- Conclude the letter: "Respectfully your name."
Part 3 of 3: Using Proper Etiquette with Clergy Members
Step 1. Follow the general etiquette for producing cards
If it's a formal message, write it on letterhead. Make your own by writing your name and contact information in the center of the page.
- Don't indent the paragraphs. Leave an extra line between each of them. You can also align your name and contact information in the left corner of the page.
- Use good stationery and a matching envelope. Don't forget to include your name and return address on the envelope.
Step 2. Stay formal when addressing the letter to a priest
It is not appropriate to call him by his first name, like Amadeu, for example. Instead, call him Padre Amadeu or just Padre.
- In the past, priests were called reverends. You can still do this if you want to be very respectful and traditional.
- Of course, if the priest asks you to call him by name, that's his right. However, in some circles doing so is considered disrespectful.
Step 3. Use proper protocol while in the presence of priests
Stand up when a priest enters the room. Keep standing until he suggests you sit down.
- If you are a man, take off your hat in the presence of a priest. Kiss his hand. This is done to honor the fact that the priest consecrates the Holy Eucharist.
- Show the same respect when leaving the presence of a priest.
- Choose white paper and black ink when writing a message to a Catholic priest.
- Many dictionaries include a style section dedicated to teaching how to address clergy at different hierarchical levels in the Episcopal, Orthodox and Russian Orthodox churches.