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In English, in a Christian/Catholic settings, people could address each other with the term "brother" or "sister", and it does not signify any biological relationship, but a spiritual relationship in Christ. In French, the same words are used "frère"(brother) and "sœur"(sister). For a Catholic preacher, the term "father" is also used. ("père" in French, same meaning).

I'd like to know in a Japanese Christian/Catholic Church, what are the corresponding terms for "brother", "sister", and the catholic "father"?

P.S. I say the catholic "father" is because being a Christian myself, no one in my church refers to the pastor as the "father." If the habits in the Japanese churches are different, please point them out as well.

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I was a missionary at a Japanese non-denominational Christian church in Osaka. In my experience—mostly limited to my own church, though I was able to visit several other churches, and attend a couple conferences with churches from all over the country—people didn't refer directly to each other as "brothers" or "sisters" (not like I do here in America with other men in my church), but sometimes about each other.

"Brother(s)"—[兄弟]{きょう・だい}

Direct Indirect
One person (<name>兄弟) × Never happens - Just follow normal name conventions (~さん, ~くん, name only, etc.) ? Very rare - Just follow normal name conventions (~さん, ~くん, name only, etc.)
Group of men ○ Mostly when preaching to - 「兄弟たちよ、祈りましょう!」; although probably not if you don't know them well
○ Addressing your own group in a familiar way
○ Occasionally - あの兄弟(たち) "Those brothers"

"Sister(s)"—[姉妹]{し・まい}

Direct Indirect
One person (<name>姉妹) × Never happens - Just follow normal name conventions (~ちゃん, name only, etc.) ? Never heard it, but I could see a man referring respectfully to a younger woman this way, like 花子姉妹
Group of women △ Men might address a very close group of women that way
× A group of women would probably never address themselves or another group this way
△ Sometimes by men - あの姉妹(たち) "Those sisters"
× Never by women

And then you can combine them as 兄弟姉妹 to refer to a mixed group, but this would be mostly indirectly.


As for the pastor, we would use <name>さん, <name>先生, or sometimes just 先生. These were all used both directly and indirectly. The term for pastor is [牧師]{ぼく・し}, but this would only ever be used in a high-level, or matter-of-fact statement (うちの教会の牧師は…). You would never use 牧師 in place of 先生 when addressing them, or referring to them by name.


Unfortunately, I have no experience with, or knowledge of Catholic terms in Japanese, so I cannot help you on that front.

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  • Thanks for the detailed answer. Really appreciate the fact that this comes from real experience
    – dvx2718
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 3:43
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Here are the basic rules:

  • 神父【しんぷ】 refers to Catholic priests or "Father". Add 様 when addressing them (神父様).
  • 牧師【ぼくし】 refers to pastors in Protestant churches. Add 様 when addressing them (牧師様).
  • シスター refers to Christian nuns (修道女【しゅうどうじょ】 is more "official"). You can directly address a nun with シスター (just as you can say "Sir!" or "Commander!").

If I understand correctly, ordinary Japanese Christians who do not live in a church are not in the habit of calling one another by special names. So there is no corresponding word in Japanese for sister or brother in this sense. The word 兄弟 often appears in doctrinal texts, but whether it is actually uttered by Japanese Christians is another story.

FWIW, the word 兄弟 and ブラザー can be heard in the dubbed version of hip-hop-themed foreign movies, etc. Personally, I have never seen a native Japanese speaker seriously use 兄弟/ブラザー to address someone, no matter how much they like Christianity or hip-hop.

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    Thanks for the detailed answer! Upvoted, but chose the other answer since it was based on real experience in a Japanese church
    – dvx2718
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 3:45
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Not Christian, but I know 神父(さん/様) is used in at least some contexts for priests, and I think I've heard 兄弟 for 'brother'.

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