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Biffi was born in Milan, and studied at the seminaries of the Archdiocese of Milan. He was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Archbishop Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, O.S.B., on December 23, 1950. From 1951 to 1960, Biffi taught dogmatic theology at the Seminary of Milan, also publishing numerous works on theology, catechetics and meditation. He received a doctorate in theology from the Faculty of Theology at Venegono in 1955; his thesis was entitled: "La colpa e la libertà nell’odierna condizione umana."
From 1960 to 1975, he did pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Milan, serving as a parish priest at Ss. Martiri Anauniani in Legnano (1960-1969) and later St. Andrea in Milan (1969-1975). Biffi became Episcopal Vicar for Culture in 1974, and a canon theologian of the metropolitan chapter of Milan on February 1, 1975. He also served as director of the Istituto Lombardo di Pastorale and the Commission for the Ambrosian Rite.
On December 7, 1975, Biffi was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Milan and Titular Bishop of Fidenae by Pope Paul VI. He received his episcopal consecration on January 11, 1976 from Cardinal Archbishop Giovanni Colombo, with Bishops Bernardo Citterio and Libero Tresoldi serving as co-consecrators. Within the Italian Episcopal Conference, he served on commissions for doctrine, catechetics, culture and liturgy.
Following the sudden death of Enrico Manfredini, Biffi was named Archbishop of Bologna on April 19, 1984, being installed as such on the following June 1. He was later elected President of the Episcopal Conference of Emilia-Romagna on July 7, 1984. Pope John Paul II created him Cardinal Priest of Santi Giovanni Evangelista e Petronio in the consistory of May 25, 1985. Biffi preached the Lent spiritual exercises for the pope and Roman Curia in 1989. He retired from the governance of the archdiocese in December 2003, being succeeded by Carlo Caffarra.
Biffi was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. According to a leaked diary, he received one vote on the fourth ballot. In 2008, he turned 80 and lost the ability to participate in future conclaves.
He also holds views opposed to homosexuality, freemasonry, and feminism; while denouncing journalists as "vermin", and stating that the Church should be "exceedingly rich".
In leading the 1989 Spiritual Exercises for the Lenten retreat of Pope Benedict XVI, the Roman Curia, the Papal Household, and other Vatican offices he again made comments referring to the anti-christ.
|Archbishop of Bologna|
19 April 1984–16 December 2003
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