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|Reference style||His Eminence|
|Spoken style||Your Eminence|
Ersilio Tonini was born in San Giorgio Piacentino, and studied at the seminary in Piacenza. He was ordained to the priesthood on April 18, 1937, and then served as vice-rector of the Piacenza seminary until 1939. Tonini furthered his studies at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, obtaining his degrees in civil and canon law, from 1939 to 1943.
From 1943 to 1969, he did pastoral work in the Diocese of Piacenza and for many years he was the pastor of parish of Salsomaggiore, as well as serving as ecclesiastical assistant of the Federation of Catholic Italian University Students, director of the weekly Il nuovo giornale, and professor and rector at its seminary. He was raised to the rank of Privy Chamberlain supernumerary on November 6, 1959.
On April 28, 1969, Tonini was appointed Bishop of Macerata-Tolentino by Pope Paul VI. He received his episcopal consecration on the following June 2 from Archbishop Umberto Malchiodi, with Archbishop Agostino Casaroli and Bishop Carlo Colombo serving as co-consecrators. Tonini was later named both Archbishop of Ravenna and Bishop of Cervia on November 22, 1975. The two dioceses were united as the Archdiocese of Ravenna-Cervia on September 20, 1986.
After reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75, he resigned his post as Archbishop on October 27, 1990, following fourteen years of service. Tonini preached the Lenten spiritual exercises to the Pope and members of the Roman Curia in February 1991, with the theme "La Chiesa della speranza per questo nostro tempo".
Pope John Paul II created him Cardinal Priest of SS. Redentore a Valmelaina in the consistory of November 26, 1994. However, as he had already reached the age of 80 at the time of his elevation to the College of Cardinals, Tonini has never been eligible to participate in a papal conclave.
|Bishop of Macerata-Tolentino|
| Succeeded by|
|Archbishop of Ravenna-Cervia|
| Succeeded by|