Address a letter

A Complete Guide to Addressing a Letter to a Catholic Minister

Writing a letter to a Catholic minister can look complicated. But it’s important to follow proper etiquette if you want to be polite. Don’t worry though – you just need to know the priest’s rank to properly address a letter to him.

Write to a priest

Address a letter to a diocesan priest.

On the envelope write: H.H. (abbreviated to “The Reverend Lord”) Rank (degree) First and last name. An example would be “H.H. Pastor Dr. Stefan Braun”. The salutation should be “Dear Mr. Pastor”. Even more formal would be the less common form of address “Your Reverend”. If you know the priest well, you can address him as “Dear Pastor/Chaplain Last Name” or “Dear Pastor/Chaplain”. Write at the end, “Joined in Christ (your name).” Alternative closing formulas would be e.g. “In Christ (your name)” or “Bonded in Christ’s blood (your name)”.

Address a letter to a religious priest.

On the envelope write: “H.H.P. (short for The Reverend Father) (academic degree) First and Last Name” followed by the abbreviation. The main difference here is to add the abbreviation of the order or community. For example “The Reverend Father Last Name OFM” or “The Reverend Father First Name Last Name OFM”. An example: “H.H.P. Thomas Schneider SJ”. Here SJ stands for the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). The salutation should be “Dear Father” or “Your Reverend”. Close the letter with “Joined in Christ (your name)”.

Write to other Catholic Church leaders

Write to the Pope.

Address the envelope appropriately. The Pope is the head of the Catholic hierarchy. Write “His Holiness Pope Francis” on the envelope. As a form of address you should use “Holy Father” or “Your Holiness”. In personal address you would address him as “Your Holiness”. The Pope’s address is: Apostolic Palace, 00120 Vatican City. Close the letter appropriately. For example, Catholics would write: “With an expression of deep reverence, your obedient and humble servant (your name).” If you are not Catholic, you can also end the letter with: “Permit Your Holiness to express my reverential consideration” or “With the expression of my reverential consideration.”

Write to a cardinal.

Address the envelope “His Eminence (First Name) Cardinal (Last Name)”. Use “Your Eminence” in the letter salutation. Cardinals are directly below the Pope in the Catholic hierarchy. In the personal form of address you can address a cardinal as “Your Eminence”. For example, if you are Catholic, end the letter with, “I beg your Eminence’s blessing and I respectfully abide in Christ (your name)”.

Write to an archbishop.

On the envelope write: “His Excellency the Most Reverend Archbishop (academic degree) first and last name”. The salutation of the letter should be “Your Excellency”. In a personal conversation you can address an archbishop with “Your Excellency”. For example, close the letter with: “With the request for your episcopal blessing, I remain sincerely connected in Christ (your name)”.

Write to a bishop.

For example, write on the envelope: “His Excellency the Most Reverend Bishop Dr. Georg Bätzing” or “Sr. Excellency the H.H. Dr. Georg Bätzing Bishop of Limburg”. The salutation of the letter should be “Your Excellency”. For example, close the letter with: “With the request for your episcopal blessing, I remain respectfully united in Christ (name)”. Alternatively: “Respectfully united in Christ (your name)”.

Write to a brother or sister.

To address a brother, write “Reverend (Mr.) Brother First and Last Name” followed by the letters of his order. The salutation should be “Reverend Brother (Name)” or just “Dear Brother (Name)”. You can close the letter with “In Christ (sinfully) joined (your name)”. To write to a sister, address the letter to “Reverend Sister First and Last Name”. The salutation should be “Reverend Sister” or simply “Dear Sister”. You can also close the letter here with “In Christ (sinfully) united (your name)”.

Write to an abbot

You should write to an abbot as follows: “Sr. Grace the Most Reverend Abbot of (monastery) (acad. degree) first and last name” followed by the abbreviation. The salutation is “Your Grace”. End the letter with: “Respectfully bound in Christ’s blood (your name).”

Using proper etiquette with priests

Follow the usual letter etiquette.

If it’s a formal letter, write it on letterhead. You can design your own by writing your name and contact information in the center of the letterhead. Don’t indent your paragraphs. Leave an extra line between each paragraph. You can also add your name and contact information to the top left of the letter. Use nice sheets of paper and a matching envelope. Be sure to write your name and return address on the envelope.

Be formal when addressing a priest.

It is not appropriate to address a priest by his first name, such as Father John. Instead, you should address him as Pastor Müller or simply as Mr. Pastor. Priests used to be addressed as “Your Reverend”. You can still do that if you want to be extra respectful or traditional. Of course, if a priest asks you to address him as Pastor Johannes, that’s fine. In some circles, however, this would be considered disrespectful.

Use proper protocol with priests.

Stand up when a priest enters the room. You should remain standing until the priest asks you to sit down. If you are a man, remove your hat in the presence of a priest. In some areas it is still customary to kiss the priest’s hand. This is a tribute to the fact that priests consecrate the Holy Eucharist. Show similar courtesy when removing yourself from the presence of a priest.

Final Words

Choose white paper and black ink when writing to a Catholic priest. Some German dictionaries have a style section of their own that describes how different clergymen of different ranks are addressed in the Eastern Orthodox or Protestant churches.



About the Author

Terese Cass

Terese Cass is a stay-at-home mom and blogger. She enjoys stacking coupons, sales, and store promotions and walking out of the store with sacks full of free groceries. Now, Terese blogs about topics like How to Get Coupons, How to Coupon for Beginners, How to Grocery Shop on a Budget, etc.