Cardinal Justin Rigali was born in Los Angeles on April 19, 1935, one of seven children born to Henry Alphonsus Rigali and Frances Irene White. He was ordained a priest by Cardinal James Francis McIntyre in the Cathedral of St. Vibiana in Los Angeles on April 25, 1961.
In October 1961, he began graduate studies in Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome from which he obtained a doctorate in 1964. From 1964 to 1966, he followed the course of studies at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, while serving in the English-language section of the Secretariat of State of the Vatican.
From September 1966 to February 1970, he served at the Apostolic Nunciature in Madagascar, which also was the Apostolic Delegation for the islands of Mauritus and La Reunión. During this time in July 1967, he was named a Papal Chamberlain (Monsignor) to His Holiness Pope Paul VI.
In February 1970, Monsignor Rigali became the director of the English-language section of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and the English-language translator for Pope Paul VI. Monsignor Rigali served as a professor at the Pontifical
Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome from 1972-1973. He also accompanied Pope John Paul II on a number of international pastoral visits, including the Holy Father's first two major journeys to the United States in 1979 and 1987. The 1979 trip included a visit to Philadelphia.
On April 19, 1980 he was named a Prelate of Honor of His Holiness. He became a magistral chaplain in the Knights of Malta on October 25, 1984. On October 13, 1986, he became a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.
On June 8, 1985, he was named President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy and Titular Archbishop of Bolsena. Pope John Paul II ordained him to the episcopacy on September 14, 1985 in the Cathedral of Albano.
From 1985 to 1990, he served as President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. On December 21, 1989, he was named Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops and on January 2, 1990 he became the Secretary of the College of Cardinals.
On January 25, 1994, Pope John Paul II appointed him the eighth Bishop and seventh Archbishop of St. Louis. He was formally installed on March 15, 1994. In January 1999, he hosted the Pastoral Visit of Pope John Paul II to the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the only such visit to a single diocese in the United States during the pontificate.
On July 15, 2003, Pope John Paul II appointed Archbishop Rigali as the twelfth Bishop and eighth Archbishop of Philadelphia. On October 7, 2003, he was installed as Archbishop of Philadelphia in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Two weeks after his installation, he was formally created a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II on October 21, 2003.
The successor of Saint John Neumann, the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia (1852-1860) and the first canonized male American saint, Cardinal Rigali is the spiritual leader of almost 1.5 million Catholics in the City of Philadelphia and the counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery.