What do Italians colloquially call their Catholic priests?

Italian Language Asked by user6483 on September 27, 2021

In English, it is mostly ‘father’ before the priest’s real or adopted name. Does that mean the Italians call them padre as in "padre Domenico" for Father Domenico?

2 Answers

My experience (in Rome, if that makes any difference) is a universal use of padre, both in itself (“Buongiorno, padre”) and with a given name (“Ho incontrato padre Leonardo”), but it seems that formally it would depend on the specific order the priest belongs to. According to Treccani dictionary, padre is a

Titolo reverenziale che si premette al nome di monaci e frati che siano sacerdoti: p. Cristoforo; [...] anche come vocativo: reverendo p.; mi ascolti, p.; vorrei confessarmi, padre.

That is, it should be strictly used for priests who are monks or friars.

Answered by DaG on September 27, 2021

I suspect this varies regionally. Where I am from (the area around Venice) people usually used the appellation don (pronounced ['don] in standard Italian and ['doŋ] in the local accent), as in don Carlo, which is the usual title for parish priests. Padre would be understood, but it feels rather formal.

As a small piece of evidence, I put forward this youtube video, whose title is Chiedilo al don, i.e. "Ask the don". I had no previous knowledge of it, so look at it at your own peril :).

However don has a quite different connotation in the South of Italy (as far as I can tell it is used for all kinds of local notables), and I suspect this influences the usage although, never having lived there, I cannot be sure.

Answered by Denis Nardin on September 27, 2021

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