How to greet a catholic bishop

Updated July 18, 2017

It's your godson's confirmation day and you're in a receiving line to meet the bishop. You have been Catholic all your life, but still the last time you met a bishop was your own confirmation day and you were too excited about cake and presents to care. You vaguely remember having to genuflect and kiss the bishop's ring, but no one here seems to be doing that. You're getting closer. He's smiling and reaching out his hand. What do you do next?

Take off your hat (men only).

Shake the bishop's hand if it's offered.

Refer to the bishop as "Bishop [Last Name]."

Answer his questions respectfully.

Allow him to end the discussion if and when he needs to.


It is never wrong to revert to the traditional form for greeting a bishop: genuflecting on the right knee and kissing the bishop's ring. However, in contemporary American society a bishop might be uncomfortable with a formal display. If he prefers not to have his ring kissed, respect his wishes.


A bishop should be referred to as "your excellency" in formal occasions; "Bishop [Last Name]" or simply "bishop" in less formal occasions. The bishop should never be referred to as "Bishop [First Name]," as this implies a familiarity that does not exist.

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