Anthony Daniel Comboni, bishop and missionary founder was born near Brescia in Italy. He was ordained priest for the African mission in the Mazza Institute in 1854 and joined its Nile expedition three years later. In 1861 he was sent to Aden to bring ransomed black slaves to Verona for education, and was then appointed Vice-Rector of the Mazza Institute’s colleges. At Rome in 1864, he conceived his plan for the regeneration of Africa and, in the following year, went to Egypt to study its feasibility. In 1867, after the Mazza Institute abandoned its African project, he founded the Missionary Institute for Africa, now called Comboni Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (Verona Fathers) and in 1872, the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of Verona. Between further journeys to Egypt he presented a stirring petition on behalf of the black populations of central Africa to the first Vatican Council in 1870, and was entrusted by Pope Pius IX with the mission to central Africa. He then went to the (Anglo-Egyptian) Sudan and reactivated this mission, based on the centre of El Obeid, capital of the Kordofan region. In 1872 he was appointed Vicar Apostolic (Bishop) and returned to Khartoum in the following year. In 1878 he met the explorer Henry M. Stanley in Cairo and died three years later in Khartoum.
Comboni’s dream of extending his mission southwards was thwarted for fifteen years after his death by the Mahdist insurrection. However, the missionary institutes he founded later spread from Egypt and Sudan to Uganda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Congo and Togo. They also work in Mexico, Brazil and Ecuador and among African Americans in the U.S.A. Comboni’s cause for sainthood was introduced in 1928 and he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1996.
Aylward Shorter M.Afr.
Agostino Capovilla, Il Servo di Dio, Monsignor Daniele Comboni (Verona, 1928).
Vittorino Dellagiacoma, Comboni un Cuore per l’Africa (Rome, 1982).
Michelangelo Grancelli, Monsignor Daniele Comboni e la Missione dell’Africa Centrale (Verona: Memorie Biografico-Storiche, 1923).
Aldo Gilli, History of the Comboni Missionary Institute from its Foundation to the death of Daniel Comboni (1867-1881) (Rome, 1979).
This article, submitted in 2003, was researched and written by Dr. Aylward Shorter M.Afr., Emeritus Principal of Tangaza College Nairobi, Catholic University of Eastern Africa.