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His Holiness

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His Holiness is the official style or manner of address in reference to the leaders of certain religious groups. In Christianity, specifically the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church (as well as the Eastern Catholic Churches), the style is used when respectively referring to the Pope of Alexandria and to the Pope of Rome. It is also used in reference to some other patriarchs in the Christian Church. In Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is also addressed in the same manner in English, as are other Buddhist leaders such as Sakya Trizin, the Patriarch of Sakyapa.


In Christianity, the style derives from the Latin word sanctitas. It was originally used for all bishops but, from the 7th century, it was only used for popes, patriarchs and some secular rulers. From the 14th century its use was restricted to a small minority of the Christian patriarchs, notably the Pope of Alexandria, the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Moscow. In the Dawoodi Bohra sect of the Ismaili branch of Shia Islam, the title is held by Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is commonly referred to in English by this style, even though he is technically not the leader of a religious group; it is, however, one of his prerogatives to appoint the Ganden Tripa (Tibetan dga' ldan khri pa), who is the nominal head of the Gelug (Tibetan dge lugs) school of Tibetan Buddhism, so the style in the case of the Dalai Lama may have some merit. Recently, the chief lamas of other of the spiritual traditions of Tibet, including the Sakya Trizin (head of the Sakya [Tibetan sa skya] school), the Karmapa (head of the Karma Kagyu [Tibetan kar ma bka' brgyud] school), and the Menri Trizin (head of Bon) have begun to be styled "His Holiness", as has the senior lama of the Nyingma (Tibetan rnying ma) school selected to be its principal representative, but this usage is more a manifestation of piety on the part of devotees than an appropriate application of the style.

The title is used officially in international diplomacy and in formal contexts without regard for its doctrinal, philosophical and theological origins.

In Buddhism

Current Buddhist leader with the title His Holiness.

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