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He was born in Naples, Italy. He became a priest choosing to join the Society of Jesus on 1 October 1936. He studied classics at the University of Naples, where he also eventually received a doctorate in philosophy. He subsequently earned a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of Louvain and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
He was ordained on 24 August 1950. After his ordination he taught as a faculty member at the Theological Faculty of "San Luigi" in Naples. He founded the journal Digest religioso, which was later renamed Rassegna di Teologia. He later worked a member of the preparatory commission on lay apostolate of the Second Vatican Council. He attended the Council as a peritus and was a member of the editorial committee of the Council's pastoral instruction on social communications "Communio et progressio" in its final phase. He was a consultor of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from 1965 until 1989.
He served as Secretary General of the Italian branch of the Society of Jesus from 1967 until 1969. He also worked for Vatican Radio and was its director general until 1985. He was also a member of the board of directors of Georgetown University, Washington from 1977 to 1983.
He was created and proclaimed Cardinal Deacon of Sant'Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio in the consistory of 21 February 2001. He almost immediately lost the right to participate in a papal conclave, when on 19 April 2001 he turned 80 years of age. He obtained from Pope John Paul II dispensation from the rule, introduced by Pope John XXIII and included in the Code of Canon Law, that all cardinals be ordained to the episcopate.