Comboni, on this day

Comboni sta facendo un rapido e faticoso viaggio nel deserto (1881) verso El Obeid
Appello per la carestia, 1878
Le opere di Dio devono sempre nascere ai piedi del Calvario: le croci e le afflizioni sono il carattere distintivo della santa impresa


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Pius IX
N. 61 (59) – TO PIUS IX


ACR, A, c. 21/18 n. 12

Pius IX
N. 62 (60) – TO PIUS IX


ACR, A, c, 21/18 n. 13

Fr. Felice Perlato
5. 6.1861
BCV, sez. Carteggi, b. 131 (Netti-Perlato)

Reverend Father Rector!

Lonigo, 5/6 1861 9.00 p.m.
To my deepest regret, this evening I forgot to ask Fr Bricolo to send a replacement for me tomorrow and Friday. It is all my fault. For Thursday I hope that one of the numerous priests coming in from the country will replace me; but for Friday, the day of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I have implored Fr Bricolo to send a replacement. I beg your pardon, Father Rector. I am still on the way to Emmaus*: but I fear it is a chronic affliction!
Thus tomorrow I ask you to please send the sacristan to Fr Bricolo for a priest, without mentioning my name. Please do not tell anyone that I am in Lonigo – outside the town, not even the sacristan; because it is something I arranged with Fr Bricolo and Fr Mazza must not know anything about it! Once again, please accept my apologies and my prayers; in the Sacred Hearts of J. and M., I declare myself

Your most affectionate servant

Fr Daniel Comb.

* jocular expression for forgetfulness.

Card. Alessandro Barnabò
8. 7.1861
AP SC Afr. C., v. 7, ff. 168–170v

Verona, 8 July 1861

Most Eminent Prince!
I must honestly confess my guilty negligence in having delayed until today to give Your Eminence an account of my journey in the Orient: neither having been extremely indisposed because of the hardships I suffered last winter nor the many duties incumbent upon me are sufficient reason to justify my negligence. I therefore implore benign forgiveness from Your Eminence’s bounty.
After obtaining a valid recommendation in Rome for the English Consul General in Egypt, I arrived early last January in Cairo where I fortunately found the Pro-Vicar Apostolic of Central Africa, FrMatteo Kirchner, with whom I have discussed everything your Eminence desired, about which you will have subsequently heard from him. I then continued my journey as far as Aden, where, with great difficulty, I was able to acquire from the vast tribe of the Gallas seven African boys whom I chose painstakingly from another sixteen. To their advantage and despite the great hostility between the English Governor and Fr Giovenale da Tortosa, Prefect Apostolic of that Mission, I managed to obtain the confidence and friendship of the former who granted me all I could wish to protect the responsibility I had assumed for the young men, and also to equip them with regular passports and English citizenship.
Then since the French frigate Du Chayla was passing through Aden, I tried in earnest to beg a free passage for me and the seven boys from Aden as far as Suez, from his Excellency Baron Gos, Ambassador Extraordinary of France in China. This was kindly granted tome by the worthy representative of that nation which is a true patron of Christianity in the Orient. After reaching Cairo and presenting the recommendation I had obtained in Rome from Lord John Pope-Hennessy to His Excellency Colgahoon (sic = Colquohoun), Consul General of Her Britannic Majesty in Egypt, I received a letter of recommendation in which the English Consul General, hostile to Fr Olivieri’s Work, ordered His Excellency Sir Sidney Smith Launders, English Consul General in Alexandria for Commercial Affairs, to undertake the necessary negotiations with the Pasha to ensure my young men a safe passage to Europe. In two days everything was completed with both Sydney Smith and with Rashid Pasha, Governor of Alexandria. However, on the morning of 6th March, when I reached the port where through the kind intervention of the French Consul General I was to embark on the French ship to sail to Genoa with all the young men for only 420 francs, I was arrested with them all at the customs.
It is pointless to explain to Your Eminence in detail all the obstacles, our sequestration and my heated discussions in the nine interviews I had with Pasha Rashid of Alexandria. The Egyptian Government, suspecting that I was a companion of Fr Olivieri, had disregarded my letters and the English passports declaring the young men English subjects from India, for this did not correspond with the colour of the boys, who were considered Abyssinian. The whole of the Pasha’s Diwan was up in arms against me as I adamantly maintained that the young men were Indians. In addition to the fortune of having declared them English subjects in Aden, in fact they also did speak a bit of Hindustani.
After a vehement argument with the Pasha, an Effendi, an Egyptian official, spoke up in the Pasha’s presence and did not mince his words saying: “These young men are not Indians but Abyssinians: I have been to India, and I did not see anyone there of this colour: the Indians’ faces are virtually white, while these are black.” To which I replied, “I do indeed believe you have been to India: but India is enormous; you have not been everywhere. Perhaps you only visited the ports of India, Bombay, Mangalore, Madras, Ceylon or Calcutta; but you have not been to the Indian hinterland. You have not been to… (and here I invented ten or twelve names which can certainly not be found on any map). “You are quite right,” he answered me, “I have not been to the places you mentioned.” Then the Pasha held out his hand to me, invited me to sit down on the sofa and had some coffee and a pipe brought in. “I see”, he said “that you are right, and your letters are perfectly consistent with what you say: these young men really are Indians. Another time, your word will be enough for me”. And he immediately ordered the head customs’ official, who was trembling with rage, to allow my young men to leave Alexandria.
Thanks to the Lord, from the moment I assumed responsibility for these young men in Aden they have not suffered the slightest indisposition. Moreover, they give me hope as regards the Mission’s goal that they will be considerably successful. I cannot say more than that. We shall see. I also brought a very talented Dinka girl from Cairo who will give us a hand in S. Croce with compiling a dictionary of the Dinka language, as best we can. I asked the Pro-Vicar for her, in order to introduce in our African Institutes in Verona the proper pronunciation of the Dinkas’ language, which is essential for the exercise of our Apostolic ministry in that perilous Mission.
I am teaching Arabic and Italian to the nine Gallas boys whom we now have in our Institute, but since from my experience I have only a slight knowledge of Gallas, I implore Your Eminence to grant me the favour of sending me the English-Gallas grammar and dictionary which I believe I saw at the Propaganda printing press, through Fr Filippo Torroni, the Minutante. Fr Torroni will then deliver it to wherever I ask him. Please forgive my eagerness Your Eminence, but I trust in the goodness you showed me when you were kind enough to speak to me.
My Superior, Fr Nicola Mazza, conveys his respects to you. By an almost constant miracle, he is now obliged to fight against the poverty caused by the present political circumstances, in order to maintain the free education for poor but intelligent boys offered by the Institute which now has 200 individuals, and the female Institute which now has 400 girls. But the marvels of Providence who has supported him for more than forty years, although he sometimes shows himself with a stern face, always keeps him secure in his works of Christian philanthropy.
In order not to bore Your Most Reverend Eminence, I have not given you an extensive account of my small but tricky expedition, as I did to Mgr Nardi and to His Excellency Cavaliere De-Hurter, President of the Society of Mary in Vienna; but I believe it is enough only to have mentioned my safe return from Aden, leaving all the rest for you to read in our Annals.
Letters written to me by Kirchner in Upper Egypt press me to return to Africa without delay to make the expedition up the White Nile in the Stella Mattutina, from Cairo to the Bari. However, since I am useful in the administration of the African Institute and in teaching the nine Gallas recently brought back from Aden, my Superior has refused to send me. He considers that for the time being the other Missionaries of Verona stationed in Shellal can go instead.
Imploring your kind sympathy, I kiss the sacred Purple and sign, with my deepest respect

Your most humble, obedient and unworthy son

Fr Daniel Comboni

Fr. Filippo Torroni
8. 7.1861
AP SC Afr. C., v. 7, f. 169

Verona, 8 July 1861

Most Reverend Father,
Should His Eminence have asked you to take a copy of the English-Gallas Grammar or the English-Gallas Dictionary, or both from the Propaganda Press, I ask you to kindly give them to Mgr Nardi, Auditore of the Sacra Rota, who lives near Propaganda in the Torlonia Palace in Bocca di Leone street. Certain that you will grant me this favour, I thank you in advance and declare myself to be, with all respect

Your Reverence’s most devoted servant

Fr Daniel Comboni,
Former Apostolic Missionary in Central Africa

Count Guido di Carpegna
10. 7.1861
AFC, Pesaro

Verona, 10 July 1861

My dear Guido!
Do not believe that because I have been silent until now it means that I have forgotten you. No, my dearest friend; I chose you as a friend, and therefore keep you constantly in my heart. But if for many reasons I have not been able to fulfil my sweet duty as a friend until now, do not learn from me to stay silent, because I long and ardently yearn for an everlasting correspondence to be established between us, to tell each other about what happens to us, what we have been doing, our feelings and everything.
I keep in my diary and I read with the most grateful satisfaction the beautiful sonnet you improvised when we passed the ancient mother of the heroes; and your magnificent poetic works, which deserve to be made public and to be praised often, run through my mind. I remember with pleasure the sweet conversations in which you revealed your heartbeats and the painful and dear memories of the city of the Caesars to the intimacy of your most sincere friend; and having become acquainted with your ardent and generous soul, you won my heart. From this you will be able to understand how sincerely I long to hear from you, and to have your full, unlimited and sincere trust and friendship, as I assure you that you are lord of mine. Oh! How dear are the tones of a distant friend!
But let us change the subject. I was counting on writing to your mother the Princess from whom I have received so many kindnesses. However, since one of my Sisters whom she happened to meet in Trieste is writing to her, and since I have no time, on this occasion I shall leave it until later. In the meantime, please renew my sincere gratitude to the worthy Princess whom I shall always remember, and I will pray to God for her that he may grant her that consolation which will make her precious life happy. The first time you write to me, please tell me her name. I would like to write to Count D…votre cher et digne oncle; mais I do not have time. Please give him my respects and tell him I would like to enter his heart and console him, and that I bless the Lord because those most delightful and beloved boys, Stanislao and Casimiro, comfort him in some of his sublime hopes and are proving worthy of him.
Here I am proud that I have been raised to the lofty dignity of professor of aste, and be a ba in Arabic. What do you expect? Among other things I have nine young Gallas whom no one can teach save me, for although in my Institute there are many who know Arabic, no one knows Indian or Gallas of which I can stammer a smattering. At the same time I preach, and look after all the correspondence of the Mission of Central Africa.
I almost had a reason to go to Rome: but I was able to sort out my affairs by letter. I have spoken of you several times to Princess Maria Ghigi Giovanelli; I have given her a thorough description of your poetic genius and told her how many of your most lovely works will soon see the light. She knows your father. Had I been to Rome, I should not have failed to visit your noble family and talk about you, our stay in Egypt and our poetic journey that turned prosaic in the fury of the storm. But there will be other opportunities. Meanwhile I long for the time when I shall see you in Verona. Oh, my dearly beloved Guido, whom I so esteem and adore! Will you come here? Will I be able to embrace you and converse with you? Do all you can and comfort a friend who loves you so well.
But above all write to me for the time being: let me know the state of your health and your soul. Oh! How pleasant are the sweet effusions of a loving soul which finds an echo in the heart that can understand the loved one! Have you been walking, in these past three months in the North, on the calm hills of Parnassus? Perhaps the recent events in Poland and the position you are in to hear the news of them immediately will have inspired your muse to open her lips in fiery song.
I end this short page, assuring you that if this time I was laconic and sterile I will not be so in the future. Keep well, enjoy yourself, and above all appreciate the precious company of your relatives with whom I had the joy to share the fears of the stormy navigation of the Adriatic and the Mediterranean, those relations of yours who are the model of true nobility. Offer my respects to all; and as I assure you that you possess my heart, I declare myself with my utmost esteem and affection

Your most faithful friend

Fr Daniel Comboni, Apostolic Missionary

My seven Gallas boys send you their greetings; Luigi in particular is
pressing me to see you again; and putting his hands to his chin, he is saying to
me sellem ala abu dagn min andi: give my greetings to the gentleman father of
the beard. Farewell again.

Fr. Felice Perlato
28. 8.1861
BCV, sez. carteggi, b. 131 (Netti-Perlato)

Verona, S. Carlo, 28 August 1861

Most Reverend Father Rector,
Tomorrow it will be impossible for me to go to the Scala for Holy Mass since I could not oppose the will of my Superiors who, because of an unusual circumstance, wish to send me to the neighbouring Church of S. Tomio.
Asking you to forgive me, I declare myself with all respect

Your humble servant

Fr Daniel C. Apostolic Missionary

His father
N. 68 (66) – TO HIS FATHER

Dearest Father,

Vienna, 8 Oct. 1861
I let you know that I am well, and that my affairs are going marvellously well. The gardener’s son is in contact with the most important personages in Vienna and is cordially welcomed by all. Things are going too well: it is impossible for them to last. Here I must with great difficulty stifle nostalgia for my beloved country, and remain taciturn before expressions most adverse to the minds of those with common sense. But enough. I find supreme kindness and a great religious spirit in the great persons who admire the Missionary and give alms for the African Mission without anyone speaking. Farewell; greet Eugenio for me and all our relatives, and believe me

Your son

Fr Daniel

Fr. Lodovico da Casoria
AFBR, c. Africa-Moretti

Vienna, October 1861

Short letter from De Hurter and Comboni.
Fr. Nicola Mazza
AMV, Cart. “Missione Africana”

Rome, 25 December 1861

Most Reverend Superior!
I have barely arrived in Rome, and I do not want a single instant to pass before writing to you. Having left Verona on Monday the 16th of this month, on the evening of the 19th, that is on Thursday, I was entering the port of Naples. Fr Lodovico da Casoria, Superior of the Institute for Africans, very gladly welcomed the three Africans I had brought there although they are lame; and now he is even happier, because three medical professors have attested in my presence that they will certainly have recovered completely within a year.
What disturbed me most was the ex-seminarian, our young African, Nasri. Not wishing at any cost to stay in Naples, he has begged me to return to Verona. Fr Lodovico also warmly pressed me to accept him.
In my opinion it all has been, is, and will be useless. Leaving aside the other reasons I used to convince Fr Lodovico that I refused, I quoted the feelings Nasri expressed in his presence and mine, that are hostile to me and to the Institute; in short, he seems a little devil to me at times; always changeable, as he ever was, because one day he wants to be a priest, now a brother, now a doctor, now an artist, etc., etc.
I hope, Father Superior, that you will not consider accepting him. You can be certain he would ruin our good new African boys. Fr Lodovico is obliged to let him leave La Palma; and after my refusal, he has decided to send him at his own expense wherever he wants to go, except to our Institute.
I am very well, although there was a tremendous storm last night on the French steamer from Naples to Civitavecchia. Fr Bonomini is already a permanent member of the Palma Institute, now that the most favourable terms have been arranged. I frankly explained to Fr Lodovico that he does not belong to our Institute, that he is fully responsible for himself; and that he should act according to his principles, without being at all worried about making exceptions out of regard for our Institute. I nevertheless assured Fr Lodovico that Fr Bonomini will be precise in teaching at the prescribed times and that he has a theoretical knowledge of several languages.
This letter is the first thing I have accomplished in Rome, because I have just arrived. Tomorrow I shall go to my usual lodgings and I hope to have a long audience with the Holy Father, because the Congregations are on holiday until after Epiphany. In a few days’ time I hope to have accomplished the many things I have to do in Rome, and that I shall be in Verona by Epiphany.
In the meantime I offer you my deepest respects. (I see great things that are being prepared for Africa). My greetings to Fr Bricolo, Fr Tomba, our future Bishop Canossa, masters and mistresses and Fr Donato, to Tregnaghi, etc., and Festa, while I declare myself in the Most Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary

Your most unworthy and obedient son

Fr Daniel Comboni