Cardinal, missionary; b. Piova (Asti), Italy, June 8, 1809; d. San Giorgio da Cremano (Napoli), Aug. 6, 1889. Massaja, whose baptismal name was Lorenzo, joined the Capuchins in 1826. After ordination he taught philosophy and theology (1836–46) and acted as confessor to the royal family of Piedmont. In 1846 he was consecrated bishop and was sent to southern Ethiopia as the first vicar apostolic of Galla, but he was unable to reach the territory of the Gallas until 1852. Meanwhile he labored along the coast of East Africa, in Egypt, and in the Sudan. Besides winning numerous converts and baptizing more than 36,000, he pioneered in medical missions, developed an indigenous clergy, and consecrated St. Giustino de jaco bis as bishop. His knowledge of the country, gained in apostolic journeys, and his aid to travelers won him esteem in Europe. His zeal, charity, and many-sided activities endeared him to the Ethiopians. He was a friend and counselor of Negus (king) Menelik, but in 1879 Negus John, at the instigation of the dissident hierarch, imprisoned him and sent him into exile. In Italy he was deeply venerated by the people. Leo XIII, who created him cardinal (1884), ordered him to complete his memoirs during his final years at the friary in Frascati. The result of Massaja's literary labors was his chief work: I miei trentacinque anni di missione nell'alta Etiopia (12 v. Rome 1885–95). This massive account of his 35 years in Ethiopia is still regarded as a work of great value. Massaja also published grammars and other works in African tongues for the use of his missionaries. Among modern African missionaries he was one of the most successful. His cause for beatification has been introduced.
Bibliography: m. guglielmo, Memorie storiche del Vicariato Apostolico dei Galla, 1845–1880, Vols. 1–6, a. rosso, ed. (Manoscritto autografo Vaticano, 1984). c. d. da sessano, Guglielmo Massaja O. F. M. Cap.: Vicario apostolico deo Galla. Cardinale di Santa Romana Chiesa. Saggio storico-critico secondo documenti inediti (Rome 1998).