The Pope is the highest religious authority in the Catholic Church and such an office demands respect, regardless of whether you are a Catholic or not. There are therefore very specific ways of addressing the Pope, both in writing and orally.
Method 1 of 2: Address the Pope in writing
Step 1. Address the Pope saying “Most Holy Father”
Say "Your Holiness" only where you would use the personal pronoun "you" for someone else. We never say "you" to the Pope, who is addressed in the third person. For example: "Most Holy Father, I cannot sufficiently mark to Your Holiness the gratitude with which She has honored me". It is therefore perfectly wrong to invert or alternate the formula of appeal "Most Holy Father" and the formula of treatment "Your Holiness", which are not at all synonymous.
Note, however, that you should address the envelope intended for the Pope and write “To His Holiness the Pope (his name)”. If for example you are writing to Pope Francis, the envelope should say: “To His Holiness Pope Francis. "
Step 2. Keep a respectful tone
The tone of your letter should be kept polite and pleasant from start to finish. You don't need to adopt strong language, but your expression should be on the same level as what you would use or expect in a Catholic church.
- Don't swear, use slang, derogatory terms, or any form of rude language.
- Write down whatever you want or need to say, but keep in mind that the Pope is a very busy man. It would be better for everyone to stick to basic polite phrases to get right to the subject of your letter, rather than procrastinating and flaunting unnecessary flattery.
Step 3. Politely end the letter
If you are Catholic, you should end the letter with the consecrated formula: "I have the honor to be, Most Holy Father, with the deepest respect, of Your Holiness, the most humble and devoted servant" before sign with your name.
- If you are not a Catholic and you are addressing the Pope in his capacity as Head of the Catholic Church, you should use the consecrated polite formula: "I beg Your Holiness to deign to accept the homage of my very deep respect”. If you address the Pope first in his capacity as Head of State (the Pope being also temporal monarch of the Vatican State), you can conclude as follows: “Please accept, Most Holy Father, the expression of my highest consideration”followed by your signature.
- A simple formula such as "All my good wishes accompany Your Holiness, very respectfully" followed by your signature may also be suitable for a non-Catholic who is writing to the Pope.
- Regardless of your choice of vocabulary, the degree of respect you show should match the minimum respect you should have for a person like the Pope. Someone who does not follow the rules of Catholicism or who disagrees with the Pope should still recognize their high authority and status and conclude respectfully. Anyone who follows the precepts of Catholicism should show respect for anyone who addresses the spiritual leader of their faith.
Step 4. Find out what the Vatican mailing address is
If you plan to send a letter by regular post, you should send it to the following address: His Holiness Pope Francis / Apostolic Palace / 00120 Vatican City.
- Note that you should make a newline after the slashes, /.
- There are other ways to write the same address.
- His Holiness Pope Francis PP. / 00120 Via del Pellegrino / Città del Vaticano
- His Holiness Pope Francis / Apostolic Palace / Vatican City
- His Holiness Pope Francis / Vatican State, 00120
- Do not put “Italy” on the envelope to mention the State. The Vatican is considered an independent state, separate from Italy.
Step 5. Know the email address and fax number of the Vatican Public Relations Department
If you prefer to send a letter by email or fax instead, you must go through the Vatican Public Relations Department. The Pope does not have a personal e-mail address intended for the public or a fax number.
- The fax number is: +39 06 69 88 53 73.
- Note that no form of correspondence comes directly to the Pope, but correspondence that you address to the Pope will eventually come to him through public relations.
Method 2 of 2: Address the Pope in person
Step 1. Designate the Pope as “Holy Father” or “Most Holy Father”
On the other hand, “Your Holiness” is only used in the third person singular instead of the pronoun “you”: it is therefore wrong to replace “Most Holy Father” by “Your Holiness”, which is not not interchangeable. So instead of "Your Holiness, I admire your goodness and your dedication to defending the oppressed" (which would equate to the very awkward and incorrect: "You, I admire your goodness and your dedication to defending the oppressed"), it should rather be said "Most Holy Father, I admire the goodness of Your Holiness and His attachment to the defense of the oppressed".
“Most Holy Father” and “Holy Father” are both addressed to the Pope according to his title and position in the Church. You should only address the Pope with these formulas and not by naming his first name when you speak to him face to face. “Your Holiness” and “His Holiness” on the other hand come in place of the personal pronouns “you” (when addressing the Pope) or “he”, when speaking of him to a third person: “J I was received in a private audience by His Holiness (the Pope)”
Step 2. Stand up and applaud as the Pope enters
The amount of applause will vary depending on the nature of the ceremony, but you should always stand up as a token of respect when the Pope enters the room you are in.
- Applause will usually be restrained and muted if the interview is held in a small room with a small number of visitors.
- For large-scale interviews, such as a large crowd, heavy applause and cheers are however appreciated.
Step 3. Genuflect as the Pope approaches you
If the Pope approaches you directly, you should bend your right knee to the ground.
You don't need to sign yourself as you would to receive the Eucharist while kneeling, but you should still bend one knee. Genuflection is the sign of the greatest respect
Step 4. Kiss her papal ring, if appropriate
If you are a Catholic and the Pope is offering his hand to you, this might be a good time to quickly but nonetheless respectfully kiss his St Peter's Ring, also known as the Fisherman's Ring, traditionally worn by the Pope.
- On the other hand, you don't have to kiss the papal ring if the Pope offers you his hand and you're not a Catholic. You could just shake his hand.
- The Fisherman's Ring is a symbol and mark of the papal office. You show both respect and genuine affection for the man who performs this function by kissing his ring.
Step 5. Speak respectfully, clearly and briefly
Plan in advance what you are going to say so you don't mumble too much, and keep your tone both clear and respectful throughout the interview.
- Start by introducing yourself. Give your name and say something relevant that qualifies and suits you.
- If you came to the Vatican for a specific reason or requested an audience with the Pope, you should also specify that.
- The Pope is going to lead the conversation and you should let him. Keep answers direct and brief, and speak in a voice that is distinct and loud enough for the Pope to hear you.
Step 6. Get up when the Pope steps down
As soon as the Pope rises to retire, you should also get up. Wait until he has left the room before you sit down or take an interest in anything else.
Applause is usually unnecessary at the end of the hearing or event, but if you are mixed up with a large audience and they start to clap, you can do that too if you wish
- Dress accordingly if you are meeting the Pope in person. If you are planning to attend an official event where the Pope will be present or if you are invited to a papal audience, you should wear decent clothing out of respect for His Holiness. Men should wear a suit, tie and waxed shoes. Women should wear either a suit or a pretty dress that covers the arms with a hem that falls to the knee.
- On the other hand, if you are going to a public mass in a stadium or if you are content to see His Holiness pass in a "popemobile", you can wear a more casual outfit. Your clothes should still be decent and proper.
- You can also contact the Vatican Public Relations Service by phone. The international number of the Public Relations Service is: +39 06 69 88 10 22. However, you will not be able to speak directly with the Pope.
- The Pope also has an account on Twitter. You shouldn't expect to hear from the Pope, but you can follow his messages at: