Cardinal Raffaele Farina, S.D.B, entered the novitiate of the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco in Portici, Naples on 15 August 1947. On 25 September 1954 he made perpetual vows and was ordained a priest on 1 July 1958.
In 1958 he earned a licentiate in theology and from 1962–1963 taught ecclesiastical history and patrology. In 1965 earned a doctorate in ecclesiastical history at the Pontifical Gregorian University and was a professor of the theology faculty of the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome.
In 1969 he was awarded the Humboldt-Stiftung scholarship for research. In 1973-1975 he was dean of the theology faculty of the Pontifical Salesian University, and then from 1977-1983 and 1992-1997 he was rector.
He also served as secretary of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences (1981-1989) and director of the Salesianum journal from 1977-1983 and 1992-1997. From 1984-1990 he was director of the Salesian central archive in Rome and from 1986-1991 he was appointed under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture. In 1992 to 2006, he was president of the editorial commission of the Vatican Publishing House.
On 24 May 1997 he was appointed Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library and was elected titular Bishop of Opitergium on 15 November 2006. He was ordained a bishop on 16 December 2006.
On 25 June 2007 he was appointed Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church and raised to the dignity of archbishop ad personam.
Archivist and Librarian emeritus of the Holy Roman Church, 9 June 2012.
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Benedict XVI in the consistory of 24 November 2007, of the Deaconry of San Giovanni della Pigna (St. John della Pigna).
Member of: Congregations: for the Causes of Saints, Catholic Education.