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Ernesto Civardi

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Styles of
Ernesto Civardi
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
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Ernesto Civardi (October 21, 1906—November 28, 1989) was an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops from 1967 to 1979, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1979.


Ernesto Civardi was born in Fossarmato, Pavia, and studied at the seminary in Pavia before being ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 1930. He then entered the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, from where he obtained his doctorate in canon law. He became a lawyer of the legal section of the Roman Rota as well. His elder brother Luigi (1886-1971) became a bishop in 1962.

Civardi served as Vice-Rector of the Pontifical Lombard Seminary in Rome from 1932 to 1934, when he began pastoral work in Rome and became an official of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation. He was raised to the rank of Domestic Prelate of His Holiness on July 15, 1950, and was Substitute (1953-1965) and Undersecretary (1965-1967) of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation. Civardi was also named Commissary of the Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments and Promoter of Justice on the Vatican City Tribunal in 1953. He later became a referendary (November 18, 1958) and voting prelate (October 10, 1962) of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, and served as a peritus, or theological expert, at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). From 1965 to 1967, he was Counselor of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.

On May 17, 1967, Civardi was appointed Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops by Pope Paul VI, and later Titular Archbishop of Serdica on June 26 of that same year. He received his episcopal consecration on the following July 16 from Pope Paul himself, with Bishops Augusto Gianfranceschi and Jacques-Paul Martin serving as co-consecrators, in St. Peter's Basilica. As Secretary, Civardi served as the second-highest official of that dicastery, successively under Cardinals Carlo Confalonieri and Sebastiano Baggio. In January 1968, Civardi visited Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro, and informed him of the Pope Paul's decision to accept his resignation as Archbishop of Bologna.[1]

On the day of his consecration he was named Secretary of the Sacred College of Cardinals, in addition to his duties in the Congregation for Bishops. As such, he acted as secretary of the papal conclaves of August and October 1978, although, not being a cardinal, he could not vote. When the newly-elected Pope John Paul I's private secretary, Fr. Diego Lorenzi, accidentally entered the Apostolic Palace whilst it was still sealed for the conclave and encountered Civardi, the latter jokingly said, "You realize you are excommunicated." Lorenzi, rather unfamiliar with Vatican protocol, replied, "If I am, the Pope will restore me to the Communion of Saints."[2]

Pope John Paul II created him Cardinal Deacon of San Teodoro in the consistory of June 30, 1979, whereupon he ceased to serve as Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops. Civardi lost the right to participate in any future papal conclaves upon reaching the age of eighty on October 21, 1986. He was a self-proclaimed "man of the Curia".[3]

The Cardinal died in Rome at age 83. Following a funeral Mass celebrated by John Paul II at the altar of the Chair of St. Peter, he was buried in the chapel of the Confraternita dei Lombardi at the Campo di Verano cemetery.


  1. TIME Magazine. Who Fired the Cardinal? December 13, 1968
  2. National Catholic Reporter. Word From Rome August 29, 2003
  3. Holy See. Homily of Pope John Paul II at the Funeral Mass for Cardinal Ernesto Civardi - Italian November 30, 1989

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Preceded by
Francesco Carpino
Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops
Succeeded by
Lucas Moreira Neves, OP
no:Ernesto Civardi

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