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Ernesto Ruffini

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Ernesto Ruffini (January 19, 1888—June 11, 1967) was an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Archbishop of Palermo from 1945 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.


Ernesto Ruffini was born in San Benedetto Po in the Province of Mantua, and studied at the diocesan seminary of Mantua, the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Northern Italy (obtaining his licentiate in theology), and the Angelicum (licentiate in philosophy) and Pontifical Biblical Institute (diploma to teach Biblical Science) in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 10, 1910, and finished his studies in 1912.

Ruffini taught at the Major Roman Seminary (1913-1930), and then the Pontifical Urbaniana University (1917-1929). Raised to the rank of Monsignor in 1925, he was appointed Secretary of the Congregation of Seminaries and Universities on October 28, 1928. Ruffini was made a Protonotary Apostolic on June 15, 1931. In 1930, Ruffini was made Prefect of Studies at the Pontifical Lateran University, of which he was named rector magnifico in the following year. Noted for his interest in science, Ruffini founded the Medical Biological Union of St. Luke, examining the relationships between Catholicism and science, in 1944.

On October 11, 1945, he was named Archbishop of Palermo by Pope Pius XII. Ruffini received his episcopal consecration on the following December 8 from Cardinal Giuseppe Pizzardo, with Archbishop Francesco Duca and Bishop Domenico Menna serving as co-consecrators. Ruffini was created Cardinal Priest of S. Sabina by Pius XII in the consistory of February 18, 1946. He was the first cardinal-designate to place his wardrobe order to the Gamarelli episcopal tailors, which he did the same morning as the announcement of his elevation to the Sacred College[1]. He later participated in the 1958 papal conclave, which selected Pope John XXIII. Ruffini was also among the papabili at that conclave.[2]

During his tenure as Palermo's archbishop, he supported Francisco Franco,[3] but protested against Communism[4] and anti-Mafia activist Danilo Dolci. He also demanded that the Sicilian bandit Salvatore Giuliano cease murdering within Palermo,[1] and refused to admit that the Mafia was the main problem of Sicily. He once questioned the Mafia's very existence. To a journalist's question of "What is the Mafia?" he responded: "So far as I know, it could be a brand of detergent."[5]

A stern opponent of reform,[6] he attended the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), and sat on its Board of Presidency. Ruffini was also part of the conservative-minded study group Coetus Internationalis Patrum at the council. He was forced to intervene in a heated discussion between Cardinals Alfredo Ottaviani and Augustin Bea in the course of the last preparatory session of the Council. During the discussion on the Council's proposed declaration against anti-Semitism, Ruffini accused the document of being overly kind to the Jews, whom the Cardinal saw as hostile to Christianity.[7] He also disapproved of Gaudium et Spes,[8] Sacrosanctum Concilium, and Dignitatis Humanae.[3]

Ruffini was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 1963 papal conclave, which selected Pope Paul VI.

He died from a heart attack in Palermo, at age 79.[9] Ruffini is buried in the shrine of Madonna dei Rimedi.


  • While still a priest, Ruffini also served as President of the Academy of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  • He collaborated with John XXIII in deciding to convene the Second Vatican Council.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 TIME Magazine. The Roads to Rome January 7, 1946
  2. TIME Magazine. Papal Possibilities October 29, 1958
  3. 3.0 3.1 TIME Magazine. Milestones June 23, 1967
  4. TIME Magazine. The Third Choice June 22, 1959
  5. Memory of anti-Mafia priest pervades summit, National Catholic Reporter, September 13, 2002
  6. TIME Magazine. The Council's Prospects September 14, 1962
  7. TIME Magazine. A Test of Good Will October 9, 1964
  8. TIME Magazine. The Bravest Schema October 30, 1964
  9. Ibid.
  10. The Whole Truth About Fatima. Vatican Council II and the Fatima Revelations
  • Cosa Nostra. Storia della mafia siciliana. Mondolibri. 2005. 

External links

Preceded by
Luigi Lavitrano
Archbishop of Palermo
Succeeded by
Francesco Carpino
la:Ernestus Ruffinino:Ernesto Ruffini

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