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Daniel Comboni

Missionary, Father, Prophet

In March 1831, Daniel Comboni was born
at Limone on Lake Garda, Italy.
Fifty years later, on 10th October 1881,
he died at Khartoum, Sudan.
Three words can depict his short life for us:
Missionary, Father, Prophet.

1. Missionary

There was a single idea that encapsulated the whole life of Daniel Comboni, and dominated him, mind and heart, and gave meaning to his existence and his actions: the Mission, and particularly the evangelisation of Central Africa - an expression that, at the time, sounded like Utopia. But Comboni would dedicate all his energies to this project and calling, to his last breath which, indeed, he breathed in the heart of Africa.

2. Father

As a missionary, Comboni felt himself a brother above all: first, of the Africans, going out to them as to members of his own family, children of the same Father; and of Europeans, whom his fraternal efforts try to involve as collaborators in the evangelisation of the Africans.

However, the mission will make him also, and especially, a father: of the first Catholic communities and Churches of Central Africa, and of the two exclusively missionary Institutes he founded in Verona. At the distance of over a century, his charismatic figure continues to awaken the fervour of young people, and to generate new families to serve the missionary Church.

3. Prophet

In Daniel Comboni, prophetism took on diverse, yet complementary, aspects. Among them we can distinguish three very important ones:

  • Witness: First of all, of the merciful Love of God, who saves all people in Christ, including the Africans. He is a witness verbally (his call to all social classes and all Church groups in the Europe of his day) and through his actions (he worked and died with Africa on his lips and in his heart).

  • Precursor: Comboni was not only one of the pioneers of the Central African mission in his time, but was also an "enlightened" forerunner, ahead of his time. His "Plan for the Regeneration of Africa", his "Message to the Fathers of the [first Vatican] Council on behalf of the Africans", the direct involvement of religious women and lay people in missionary work, his total trust in the Africans ("Save Africa through Africans"), his all-embracing concept of mission (evangelisation, missionary animation, formation of future missionaries)... are all elements, typical of Comboni and of mission, that are still relevant today.

  • Martyr: Without doubt, this is the most profound aspect of Comboni as a prophet. Martyred in body and in spirit, mystically nailed to the Cross with his Lord, fallen like the grain of wheat into the furrow of Africa. A martyrdom that made him profoundly contemplative, a master of missionary spirituality.

  • His Beatification on 17th March 1996 in St Peter's Basilica in Rome is the recognition and confirmation on the part of the Church of a life that followed the divine plan. And the charisma of Comboni thus becomes an invitation to the Church and to the world of today.

    It is the new challenge of Daniel Comboni to all his sons and daughters, to all those who feel called in some way to be "Comboni Family", supporters of the mission "to the Nations" in the Church of Christ.