Born on 1 June 1938 in Samboseto di Busseto in Italy. He studied for the priesthood in Fidenza and after ordination obtained a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
He was ordained on 2 July 1961 and held various teaching positions, with a particular emphasis on bioethics. He was President of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in 1980 and founded sections of the Institute in USA, Spain and Mexico.
He was appointed Archbishop of Ferrara-Comacchio on 8 September 1995 and consecrated in the Cathedral of Fidenza on 21 October 1995 by Giacomo Cardinal Biffi. He was later transferred to be Archbishop of Bologna on 16 December 2003. He is a member of "Communione e Liberazione".
Pope Benedict XVI created him Cardinal in the consistory of 24 March 2006.