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How to address an Orthodox bishop in an e-mail letter


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#1 Ken McRae

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 07:13 PM

I'd like to write a letter (or send an e-mail) to an Orthodox bishop, but I'm unsure of the correct way to start it off, or address him at its beginning. Do I start it by merely saying 'Your Grace', and then proceed to my question; or is it appropriate to just start it out with 'Dear Bishop' (so and so)? A tip (or two) would be much appreciated! Thanks.

#2 Antonios

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 08:17 PM

This site may help. Two excerpts:

Addressing Clergy in a Letter. When we write to a clergyman (and, by custom, monastics), we should open our letter with the greeting, "Bless, Father." At the end of the letter, it is customary to close with the following line: "Kissing your right hand...." It is not appropriate to invoke a blessing on a clergyman, as many do: "May God bless you." Not only does this show a certain spiritual arrogance before the image of the cleric, but laymen do not have the Grace of the Priesthood and the prerogative to bless in their stead. Even a Priest properly introduces his letters with the words, "The blessing of the Lord" or "May God bless you," rather than offering his own blessing. Though he can do the latter, humility prevails in his behavior, too. Needless to say, when a clergyman writes to his ecclesiastical superior, he should ask for a blessing and not bestow one.



Bishops in the Orthodox Church are addressed as "The Right Reverend Bishop," followed by their first name (e.g., "The Right Reverend Bishop John"). Archbishops, Metropolitans, and Patriarchs are addressed as "The Most Reverend Archbishop" ("Metropolitan," or "Patriarch"). Because they are also monastics, all ranks of Archpastors (Bishops, Archbishops, Metropolitans, or Patriarchs) are addressed by their first names or first names and sees (e.g., "Bishop John of San Francisco"). It is not correct to use the family name of a Bishop—or any monastic for that matter. Though many monastics and Bishops use their family names, even in Orthodox countries like Russia and Greece, this is absolutely improper and a violation of an ancient Church custom.

Hope this helps!

#3 Ken McRae

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 09:26 PM

Hope this helps!


Indeed it does. Many thanks Antonios!

#4 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 02:59 AM

This site may help. Two excerpts:

Addressing Clergy in a Letter. When we write to a clergyman (and, by custom, monastics), we should open our letter with the greeting, "Bless, Father." At the end of the letter, it is customary to close with the following line: "Kissing your right hand...." It is not appropriate to invoke a blessing on a clergyman, as many do: "May God bless you." Not only does this show a certain spiritual arrogance before the image of the cleric, but laymen do not have the Grace of the Priesthood and the prerogative to bless in their stead. Even a Priest properly introduces his letters with the words, "The blessing of the Lord" or "May God bless you," rather than offering his own blessing. Though he can do the latter, humility prevails in his behavior, too. Needless to say, when a clergyman writes to his ecclesiastical superior, he should ask for a blessing and not bestow one.



Bishops in the Orthodox Church are addressed as "The Right Reverend Bishop," followed by their first name (e.g., "The Right Reverend Bishop John"). Archbishops, Metropolitans, and Patriarchs are addressed as "The Most Reverend Archbishop" ("Metropolitan," or "Patriarch"). Because they are also monastics, all ranks of Archpastors (Bishops, Archbishops, Metropolitans, or Patriarchs) are addressed by their first names or first names and sees (e.g., "Bishop John of San Francisco"). It is not correct to use the family name of a Bishop—or any monastic for that matter. Though many monastics and Bishops use their family names, even in Orthodox countries like Russia and Greece, this is absolutely improper and a violation of an ancient Church custom.

Hope this helps!


Here's also an example following basically from the above:

At the top I usually write something like : To His Grace the Rt Rev (Arch)Bishop [name]

Your Grace,

Master bless!

[body of letter]


Kissing your right hand
or
Your unworthy servant (this last might be only for clergy- I've lost track over time)

your name

#5 Anthony

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 11:51 AM

When we write to a clergyman (and, by custom, monastics), we should open our letter with the greeting, "Bless, Father."


This is an interesting question. Whenever I have asked monastics who are not priests for their blessing, they have refused, pointing to the fact that they are not priests. Is this different in letters?

#6 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 12:51 PM

This is an interesting question. Whenever I have asked monastics who are not priests for their blessing, they have refused, pointing to the fact that they are not priests. Is this different in letters?


In the Russian tradition monastics who are not priests don't give blessings. In the Byzantine tradition however (at least I saw this on Mt Athos- I'm not sure about mainland Greece or the rest of the Balkans) laity often approach any monastic whether a priest or not, reach out to kiss the hand of the monastic and say, "bless". The answer from the monastic is, "the Lord" which he says while the layman kisses his hand. I never did know the exact significance of this blessing compared to that of a Russian bishop or priest where the significance is of Christ acting through the priest's blessing; ie the blessing is a real priestly action. One sees this also in the way the blessing is given by a sign of the cross with the three fingers with the hand then placed onto the palm of the person asking the blessing. In the Byzantine tradition from what I could see the monastic would simply reach their hand forward for the layman to kiss without any sign of the cross or three fingers. Not that this is a science but it felt like a different kind of blessing.

Anyway- that's a very long-winded way of saying as we ask for blessings- so we address letters.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#7 Anthony

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 01:03 PM

Thank you, Father.

The source of my confusion must indeed have been the difference between Greek and Russian customs, specifically on Mt Athos.

#8 Alec Lowly

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 12:36 AM

I'd like to write a letter (or send an e-mail) to an Orthodox bishop, but I'm unsure of the correct way to start it off, or address him at its beginning. Do I start it by merely saying 'Your Grace', and then proceed to my question; or is it appropriate to just start it out with 'Dear Bishop' (so and so)? A tip (or two) would be much appreciated! Thanks.


Yo, Bish! <smile> A.L., Diocese of The Bronx

#9 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 12:41 AM

Yo, Bish! <smile> A.L., Diocese of The Bronx


Well you'd sure get a fast response that way! :)

But not necessarily the one you were looking for.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#10 Anthony

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Posted 22 April 2007 - 05:22 PM

Addressing Clergy in a Letter. When we write to a clergyman (and, by custom, monastics), we should open our letter with the greeting, "Bless, Father." At the end of the letter, it is customary to close with the following line: "Kissing your right hand...."


A short follow-up question: does this apply to the abbess of a women's monastery? I seem to remember being taught to kiss her right hand or staff when entering the church, but not (if I remember correctly) asking for a blessing.

Anthony

#11 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 22 April 2007 - 09:38 PM

A short follow-up question: does this apply to the abbess of a women's monastery? I seem to remember being taught to kiss her right hand or staff when entering the church, but not (if I remember correctly) asking for a blessing.

Anthony




At the convent I would visit the abbess would bless the faithful but if a priest was present she would do this only after the priest had given a blessing.

But it's best to ask about this if you visit a convent.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#12 Anthony

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 08:18 AM

Thank you, Father.

I was also thinking particularly of the correct form of address when writing e-mails.

Anthony

#13 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 02:36 PM

Thank you, Father.

I was also thinking particularly of the correct form of address when writing e-mails.

Anthony


It depends on how familiar you are. Those who are close use 'matushka' in the russian tradition even for the abbess.

'Mother' is more formal and to say 'abbess' when writing or speaking directly to her would be even more rare although perhaps it could be used if speaking about the abbess.

I'm not sure- you might use Reverend Mother the first few times until you establish some sort of relationship.

Degree of closeness is everything in how we address others in Orthodoxy -even bishops.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#14 Anthony

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 02:47 PM

It depends on how familiar you are. Those who are close use 'matushka' in the russian tradition even for the abbess.

'Mother' is more formal and to say 'abbess' when writing or speaking directly to her would be even more rare although perhaps it could be used if speaking about the abbess.

I'm not sure- you might use Reverend Mother the first few times until you establish some sort of relationship.

Degree of closeness is everything in how we address others in Orthodoxy -even bishops.

In Christ- Fr Raphael



Thank you, Father; this is very helpful.

Anthony




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