Cardinal Pio Laghi, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Catholic Education (of Seminaries and Institutes of Study), Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, was born on 21 May 1922 in Castiglione di Forlì (Italy) and was ordained a priest on 20 April 1946.
He completed his elementary and secondary studies at the Salesian Institute at Faenza and he took philosophy at the episcopal seminary. As a student of the major pontifical seminary he studied theology at the Pontifical Lateran University. In 1942 he earned a doctorate in theology, and in 1950 another in Canon Law at the Pontifical Lateran University.
After graduating from the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, in March 1952 he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See and was sent as a secretary to the nunciature of Managua, Nicaragua. He was transferred in 1954 first as secretary and then as auditor to the apostolic delegation in Washington; in 1961, he was sent to the nunciature of Delhi, India. In 1964 he was recalled to Rome and served a quinquennium in the Secretary of State on the Council for Public Affairs, now the Section for Relations with States.
Appointed to the titular see of Mauriana on 24 May 1969 and designated apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, he received episcopal ordination on 22 June 1969. After spending five years in Jerusalem he was appointed pro-nuncio to Cyprus and apostolic visitator to Greece. In April 1974 he was transferred to Argentina as nuncio. He remained there until December 1980, when he was appointed apostolic delegate to the United States. In March 1984, when official diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the United States were established, he became pro-nuncio.
On 6 April 1990, he was appointed pro-prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, 1 July 1991 until 15 November 1999.
Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, 8 May 1993.
President of the Pontifical Oratory of St. Peter, 5 December 1992.
Special papal envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to deliver a personal message from Pope John Paul II promoting a cease fire and the resumption of peace talks, May 30, 2001
Named special papal envoy to the president of the United States of America to carry a message from Pope John Paul II and to illustrate the position and the initiatives undertaken by the Holy See to contribute to the disarmament and peace in the Middle East, March 1, 2003.
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by John Paul II in the consistory of 28 June 1991, of the Title of S. Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains).