Comboni, Daniele, Bl.
COMBONI, DANIELE, BL.
Missionary bishop in Africa; founder of Comboni Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Missionary Sisters Pie Madri della Nigrizia; b. Limone del Garda (near Lake Garda), northern Italy, March 15, 1831; d. Khartoum, Sudan, Oct. 10, 1881. Daniele was the only one of the eight children of his farmer parents to live. With a view to dedicating his life to evangelizing Africa, he studied languages and medicine, as well as theology, at the diocesan seminary and Verona Institute for missionary preparation before his ordination to priesthood (1854).
In 1857 he went to Khartoum with four other priests via the Holy Land. The five labored along the White Nile, suffering deplorable shortages of food and water in an unfamiliar climate and a hostile environment that left three dead within a short time. The failed mission was aborted by the Propaganda Fide, and Comboni and his companion returned to Italy (1859) to train more missionaries.
On Sept. 15, 1864 Comboni conceived of a plan for the evangelization of Africa that involved "saving Africa with Africans." Europeans would establish missions along the coast and make expeditions inland to educate Africans to evangelize others. The plan included the use of female missionaries. In 1867, with papal approval, he founded the Verona Fathers because the new bishop of Verona no longer allowed the Institute for missionary preparation to have its own seminarians or priests. The first group left before the end of the year to establish a mission post at Cairo.
Returning to Europe to seek funding, Comboni established the Missionary Sisters of Verona or Pie Madri della Nigrizia (1872). He prepared a document for Vatican Council I that included his plan, and it received approval on July 18, 1870 from Pope Pius IX. Comboni was appointed provicar apostolic (1872), then vicar apostolic (1877) of the Vicariate Apostolic of Central Africa embracing Sudan, Nubia, and territories south of the great lakes. The following year he was involved in famine relief in Khartoum. Besides traveling widely in his vicariate and establishing missions at Khartoum, El-Obeid, Berber, Delen, and Malbes, Comboni sought to end the widespread slave trade and its abuses. This led to his abduction by a Freemason in Paris during one of his fundraising trips.
Comboni was also a linguist, geographer, and ethnologist, and contributed extensively to scientific journals. He compiled a dictionary of the Nubian language, and published studies on the Dinka and Bari tongues. His reports, such as Un passo al giorno sulla via della missione (Bologna, 1997) and Gli scritti (Bologna, 1991), and correspondence provide much information on the history of African civilization.
Comboni succumbed to malaria during his journey from El-Obeid to Khartoum in July of 1881. Nevertheless, he continued to work for several months before he died. Pope John Paul II beatified Comboni on March 17, 1996.
Feast: Oct. 10.
Bibliography: d. agasso, Un profeta per l'Africa (Milan 1993). a. baritussio, Cuore e missione: la spiritualità del cuore di Cristo nella vita e negli scritti di Daniele Comboni (Bologna 2000). o. branchesi, Safari for Souls (Cincinnati 1951). a. capovilla, Daniele Comboni, 6th ed. (Verona 1923). c. fusero, Daniele Comboni, 3rd ed. (Bologna 1961). l. franceschini, "Il Comboni e lo schiavismo," in Archivo Comboniano (Verona 1961): 27–65. mons. m. grancelli, Daniele Comboni e la missione dell'Africa Centrale (Verona 1923). s. luciani and i. taddia, eds., Fonti comboniane per la storia dell'Africa nord-orientale, 2v. (Bologna 1986 and Cagliari 1988). v. milani, ed., Mozambico: un imperativo di coscienza (Bologna 1976). a. montonati, Il Nilo scorre ancora (Bologna 1995).
[j. m. carillo/
k. i. rabenstein]