In the United States, most bishops are aware that lay people are not trained as they once were in ecclesiastical etiquette. If you greet a Catholic bishop, they will expect an informal handshake.
However, it can sometimes be confusing, as you may not always know what to call a bishop, or if there is some type of formal greeting that should be used.
In most cases, you can greet a Catholic bishop in this way:
- Say, “Hello, Bishop …” using his last name if you remember it.
- You can also say, more formally, “Your Excellency.”
- Bishops wear an episcopal ring and prior custom would permit you to kiss that ring, honoring his authority. Some bishops will allow you to kiss the ring, while others will swiftly move their hand out of the way. Be respectful of the bishop’s preference.
Whatever you do, try not to get too nervous. Bishops are human. They are ordained to a special mission, but they are only in the place they are because of God.
There is a story of a young man at confirmation who accidentally called the bishop “Father.” Instead of rebuking him, the bishop said to the boy, “Don’t worry, that’s the best title I have ever had.”