Missionary, b. 15 March, 1831 in Limone San Giovanni near Brescia, Italy; d.
10 Oct., 1881, at Khartoum. Educated in Mazza's Institute, Verona, he learned,
in addition to theology, several languages and medicine. Ordained priest in 1854,
he was sent (1857) by Don Mazza to Central Africa, but returned (1859) because
of ill health. After teaching in Mazza's Institute from 1861-64 he published
Piano per la rigenerazione dell' Africa (Turin, 1864) and visited France,
Spain, England, Germany, and Austria to collect funds. In Verona Comboni
established (1867) his Istituto delle Missioni per la Nigrizia to educate
priests and brothers for the missions, and the Istituto delle Pie Madri to
supply female help; he also opened similar institutions in Cairo, Egypt, to
acclimatize missionaries for the fever-stricken regions of Central Africa.
Appointed (1872) Pro-vicar Apostolic of Central Africa (vicariate since 1846),
embracing Nubia, Egyptian Sudan, and the territory south to the Lakes (with
nearly 100,000,000 inhabitants) Comboni began his great work with only two
missions, El-Obeid (Kordofan) and Khartoum. Others rapidly followed: Berber,
Delen, Malbes (near El-Obeid). In 1877 Comboni was made Vicar Apostolic of
Central Africa and titular Bishop of Claudiopolis. His death was pronounced a
great loss by Leo XIII.
Comboni aroused the interest of Europe in negro missions, and journeyed five
times from Africa to Europe to secure missionaries and funds. By means of his
intimate acquaintance with the khedive and the Governor of the Sudan he
effectually checked the slave-trade. Besides his
Quadro storico delle Scoperte
Africane (1880) he contributed material for scientific works, notably on
geography. Mitterrutzner's works on the Dinka and Bari dialects (Brixen, 1866,
1867) are based on Comboni's manuscripts. He was a
language genius (Cardinal
Simeoni), master of six European tongues, of Arabic, and the dialects of the
Dinka, Bari, and Nuba negroes. His
Istituto, since 1894 the Congregation of
the Sons of the Sacred Heart, continues his work in Central Africa. Mgr. Geyer
(appointed vicar Apostolic in 1903) was assisted in 1907 by 29 priests, 23
brothers, and 35 sisters ministering to 11 churches, 9 schools, and 6 orphanages.
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