Comboni, on this day

Udienza con Pio IX (1870) assieme a mons. di Canossa
Al card. Franchi, 1875
Cristo risuscitò dopo aver subito la morte di Croce. Egli ci aiuti a morire per amore suo e per la salvezza dell’infelice Nigrizia


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Fr. Nicola Mazza
AMV, Cart. “Missione Africana”

Rome, 29 December 1861

My Most Reverend Superior!

According to the instructions you gave me in Verona when I passed through on my way to Rome, I hinted to Propaganda and to the Father General of the Franciscans that it is your intention, Father Superior, to continue the work of the African Missions, and eventually to carry out the plan which you conceived more than twelve years ago. Propaganda replied that it is most willing to consent to your holy wishes as long as you come to an understanding with the Franciscans; and Fr General answered me not only that he was ready to welcome the Verona Missionaries in Africa, but that he had urged the former Pro-Vicar Kirchner to let our Fr Beltrame and Fr Dalbosco stay on at the Mission, and to return himself should you so wish.
But Kirchner, who was dismayed and discouraged, wishing to abandon the Mission with honour and triumph, arbitrarily recalled our Missionaries, as though triumphantly justifying his own detachment from Africa, legitimising it by making others follow him. I learned this as a certain fact from two long conversations I had with Cardinal Barnabò. Transeat. Indeed, he confirmed that Kirchner did not view our Institute or our association with the African Mission very favourably.
What seems to me most appropriate now is this. Cardinal Barnabò is now prepared to assign us an area of the African Mission. Likewise the present General of the Franciscans is willing to grant our Institute’s wishes. The present General will remain in office until next March when there will be another General. Who knows whether the future General will have the same good intentions as the present one, who, since he himself has been a Missionary, is very fond of the Missions? This is not my own observation, but that of Cardinal Barnabò, who admitting me to his confidence although I am unworthy, let me understand that it would again be our task to negotiate with the present General and then to submit everything to Propaganda. This being so, I think it would be appropriate that you, Father Superior, should immediately draft the articles, on which to base our future co-operation in Central Africa, and enclose with these a request to the Franciscan General in which you ask to co-operate in the conversion of the Africans.
It should all be sent to me in Rome and I will present it all to the General, taking it upon myself then to submit the proposals to Propaganda, in the manner the Prefect himself, Cardinal Barnabò, indicated to me. It seems appropriate to me to do this immediately, during the mandate of the present General; without trusting in the future to the strong influence of Mgr Nardi who is totally absorbed in politics and writing pamphlets. Having then obtained the necessary authorisation from Propaganda and from the Franciscans, we can calmly and gradually make our plans and whenever it may be, even after many years, achieve the Mission plan. Therefore until I receive further orders from you, I remain in Rome, steadfast in the hope that if by the middle of this January I receive your authorisation as I have explained above, I will be able to return to Verona when everything has been completed. Address your orders to me as follows:
To Fr Daniel Comboni, Apostolic Missionary,
Care of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition
Piazza Margana, Rome

Cardinal Barnabò told me he had appointed Fr Giovanni Reinthaller, whom you saw in Verona this last autumn, as Pro-Vicar Apostolic of Central Africa. In order for letters not to do the rounds of Switzerland, please send them to Desenzano, care of Mr Pietro Polidoro, a brother of the Monsignor to whom I have requested that my letters be sent on to Rome, so as to save a week. I hope I have thought up something appropriate; and in that way my delay is justified. Should my determination be inappropriate, you can wring my neck and call me an ass, for you will be right.
I beg you to tell Mgr Canossa that Cavaliere Sassi has already sent the Brief to Verona for him to be ordained Bishop on 23rd January. If he should desire something other than what he has already commissioned me, he has only to let me know, since I shall be in Rome until the middle of next January. Mgr Nardi and Cardinal Barnabò greet you respectfully. So does Prince Carpegna, at whose house I eat and drink. On Wednesday I am admitted to the audience of Pius IX.
It is extraordinarily peaceful in Rome. The Pope is enjoying perfect health. Cardinal Cagiani, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Council told me today that the Pope pronounced these words the other day at the Cardinals’ assembly: “I am preparing myself for the most terrible persecution: if you are worthy of your name, you should follow me and be my companions in sorrow, while I suffer its first blows, etc., etc.”
My greetings to Fr Bricolo, Fr Cavattoni, Bishop Canossa and Podestà, to everyone in the Institute, as I declare myself

Your most affectionate son

Fr Daniel Comboni, Apostolic Missionary

Fr. Francesco Bricolo
AMV, Cart. “Missione Africana”

Rome, 30 December 1861

Dearly Beloved Father Rector!
Malheureusement je dois rimanere a Roma fino alla metà del prossimo gennaio, perché oltre agli affarucci che mi obbligano, v'è il grazioso invito che mi fece il Card.l Barnabò di assistere all'accademia di Propaganda che si fa la domenica fra l'ottava dell'Epifania, nella quale si sfoggiano elaborati in più di 40 lingue recitati da rispettivi indigeni. D. Bonomini è collocato alla Palma. Ha l'obbligo di far quel che può per l'istruzione dei mori, e riceve il vitto, l'alloggio, la pulitura della biancheria, e la messa quotidiana coll'elemosina di due carlini. Per ora non assunse che l'istruzione de' tre, da me colà condotti. Ei si trova contento, come pure il padre Lodovico. Rimase contento del viaggio, e dice che io l'ho trattato benissimo. Il suo viaggio mi costa Nº. 90 franchi. Avendone io ricevuto 50, ne viene che il sofà lo scrittoio, i due comò etc. tutto insieme mi viene a costare Nº. 40 franchi: la mia coscienza è pienamente tranquilla, poiché se tutto avessi dovuto pagare, io ci avrei perduto. Il guadagno è frutto delle mie industrie.

The Head of Central Africa is Giovanni Reinthaller, the one who came to Verona. I am treated like a prince in Rome. I have a room at the Minerva and lunch and dine and everything else with the Carpegna princes, and since today they realised that I would be staying in Rome until mid-January they are getting an apartment ready for me and I am to move in tomorrow. Life with the Roman aristocracy is boring, full of formality, etiquette and hypocrisy. I find it abhorrent, and the members of the Carpegna family, although they live it with the others, do not demand it of anyone, and hate it. Mgr Nardi asks me to greet you; he is sometimes a guest of the Carpegnas. However, under the pretext of business matters, I have decided to do the spiritual exercises from the 4th to the 10th with a holy Benedictine missionary, because I have not done them for 19 months.
Tomorrow at 4.00 p.m. I have an audience with His Holiness Pius IX, who according to what His Eminence Cardinal Cagiani, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Council told me, made a tremendous speech to the Cardinals, showing them that a furious persecution was being prepared whose target would be the Pontiff. In Rome there is a considerable, indeed, incomparable, quiet. Every day I enjoy the dear company of Prince Giovanelli, and friend as I am of many Congregations of French nuns (for which I have a predilection), they compete in wanting me to celebrate Mass in their convents. In Naples I saw the Aldigheri and the Spezia every day, and several times dined with them. In my own name and on behalf of the Spezia-Aldighera family, I greet Fr Alessandro and the other professors of S. Giorgio’s. Please give my greetings to all the priests in the College, not excluding my General Staff and my Court, and especially the gobbeto omnibus. Then respectfully greet the Parisi family, ensuring that my secretary Vitichindo stays in line.
Please accept the affectionate greetings of

Your most affectionate

Fr Daniel

Signatures for Masses
Fr. Nicola Mazza
4. 1.1862
ACR, A, c. 15/58

Rome, 4 January 1862

Dearest Fr Superior!
His most Illustrious and Reverend Eminence Cardinal Sforza, Archbishop of Naples, a very wise, enterprising and generous man, now lives in Rome because of political circumstances. When he heard my description of our Institute which gathers highly intelligent children from amongst the common people and, by means of appropriate teaching, leads them to being useful one day to religion and civilisation, he warmly entreated me to let him have our Institute’s Rule and the plan that you drew up, Fr Superior, when you founded it. He showed the greatest interest and it seems he has conceived the idea of founding an institute in Naples to gather the abandoned intelligent children of his vast diocese and densely populated city.
In my view, which is now brilliantly clear in my mind, a project like that of the Cardinal Archbishop of Naples will be of great benefit to the entire Kingdom of Naples, as well as to our Missionary Institute. May Providence deign to increase the number of members in our Institute, for we need them. The interest with which His Eminence beseeches me to procure him the Rule is great. Therefore when I reach Verona I hope you will have had all the writings in print collected, such as Mazelta, etc. Your booklet, in which you invited the ladies of Verona to participate in the redemption of young African girls, is not enough. I hope my wish will be granted. It would be even better were another booklet to be published, indicating and describing the outline and the plan for all our Institutes.
Regards from Cardinal Barnabò, the Cardinal Archbishop of Naples, Mgr Nardi, the Mother General of the Institute of St Joseph, Fr Alfieri, who is so kind to me, and Prince Giovanelli who leaves for Naples tomorrow. I am waiting for your letters and to know your wishes. I shall stay in Rome until the middle of this month, to reach Verona before the 23rd for the ordination of Mgr Canossa, to whom I would like you to give my respects. My greetings to Fr Bricolo, to all those in the male and female Institutes, and to Fr Cesare on behalf of Mgr Profili, Rector of the Roman Seminary, who met him with Tognetto Bertoldi. I can tell you that the Pope is very well. I saw him attending the Te Deum on New Year’s eve and at a great demonstration in the square, where a huge crowd shouted spontaneously: Viva Pio IX Pontefice e Re (Long live Pius IX Pontiff and King); I then saw him taking part in the papal Mass in the Sistine Chapel on New Year’s day, in which Mgr Nardi carried the Cross like an acolyte, in the presence of 36 Cardinals and 108 Bishops. I have not yet had an audience because there is a holiday until the Epiphany. After Epiphany I shall attend the ceremony at the Propaganda Academy where papers will be read out in more than 40 languages.
With a request for your blessing, I sign myself in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary

your most unworthy son

Fr Daniel Comboni

Mgr Besi is in Verona.

Inscription on a picture
6. 1.1862

Rome, 6/1/1862

At the bottom of a print portraying the Three Kings in front of the Child Jesus, Comboni adds the following inscription:

Hanc immaginem accepit in Collegio Urbano de Propaganda Fide,

die 6 Jann.ri 1862 D.l Comboni
Count Guido di Carpegna
9. 2.1862
AFC, Pesaro

My dear and beloved Guido,

Verona 9/2 1862
26 days have passed since I had the joy of seeing your dear family; and it now seems to me a 100 years since I had news of you. I can assure you that not a moment of the day passes without fond memories of you flooding my mind; and I must confess with some confusion that the man who made such an effort to leave the loving parents of an only son to fly to the heart of African people in distant neighbourhoods and regions bent beneath Satan’s empire, lying in the darkness and shadows of death, left Rome on the 15th of last month, his heart filled with deepest sorrow at being separated from you and the honourable Carpegna family who will be eternally impressed upon my soul, and written in indelible letters in my innermost spirit.
Not to mention many other things, I am still on tenterhooks at the thought of the observations made about you by the Prefect of Rome two days before my departure and I long for the precious moment when you will give me some idea of them. Yes, my dearest friend; all of you are written on my heart; you are all tenderly loved by me, whom I must deplore for being unworthy of you. Your name is mentioned and spoken with reverence and affection by my closest friends; your dear name is repeated by the innocent lips of some of my young Africans and, in my Institute, especially by my brother Priests who say it with love, gratitude and respect. I regard you and the innocent Pippo with great feeling and pride as beloved brothers.
I know that I shouldn’t do so, given my humble and obscure background in comparison with the nobility of your lineage, but I nonetheless recognise that you have a soul so noble as to be able to grant me a generous pardon. I consider the Count of Carpegna my father; and that sublime and generous soul, the flower of Polish heroines, whom I saw to be full of noble sentiments and rich in magnanimous thoughts, that angelic soul who gave birth to you with her heart, and now bears you in her bosom with more than maternal affection; I consider that soul my mother.
I had a loving mother, but I lost her in 1858 while I wandered through the scorching deserts of Central Africa; now that I know the value of the treasure I have lost, I would dare to choose for myself as mother the one who also gave birth to you, not only in body, but in a nobler and loftier way with her spirit; so that with you, I too can consider her in my heart as mother. Then I also recognise the tutor, my dear Fr Luigi, as brother and I love him deeply, for I know that he was, is and will be a true friend to the Carpegna family and is staying with you only to be useful in every way because he loves you with sincere affection. Forgive me for these words that are unworthy of the lips and heart of an Apostolic Missionary; but they are the expressions of the longing of a heart that loves you all ardently.
It cheers my spirit to recognise my heart’s dearest friends in my album and to contemplate them in your portraits. Then every morning when I am granted in the Memento to say a prayer for you in the sacrifice on the altar, oh! Then I feel ineffable joy, and it seems to me that in those blessed moments my spirit is fully warmed by the most fervent devotion, for I see in God the centre of the communication between me and you, united to me in religion, faith and love, although you are physically distant. Now that I have become thoroughly acquainted with you and you with me, shall I not venture to hope, and will you dare let a month go by, without sending me your letters, telling me about yourselves one by one, and keeping up communication between us by letter? Ah! I hope that you will not allow a soul to languish who sighs for you and does not let a moment pass without remembering you.
Give my regards to Mgr Besi, Mgr Nardi, to Signor Massoni, to the most worthy professor at the eye clinic, to Giovanelli, to Macchi, and to all the frequent visitors to your house whom you know that I know and whom I do not name since they are so numerous.
After leaving Rome I stopped in Pisa and then in Turin where I made two visits to the Parliament, that is, one to the Chamber of Deputies, and the second to the Senate, by courtesy of the Ricasoli. Then in Verona I found a gracious letter from Pélagie, who gave me news of your dear ones who were our travelling companions from Egypt as far as Trieste. Pélagie is one of those Polish souls whose heart is full of noble sentiments and who, with her good sense, is able to combine religion and homeland, faith and civilisation, as Maman would even more. Let me quote you a passage on Poland that is worthy of a Polish soul: “Do not forget Poland in your prayers either. If you have seen Guido, he must have told you what he witnessed in Warsaw on 8th April and all the time he was there. The newspapers do not even mention the half of it. This cries for vengeance and yet all Europe is closing its eyes and blocking its ears! Perhaps God will take pity on this unfortunate country divided between three powerful and cruel enemies who kill its children or have them flung into prison to punish them for desiring freedom. So where are the champions of justice? This blood will not be shed in vain. God will take pity on those who are suffering, for they hope in Him.”
Oh! How I revere these Polish souls! But enough, my dear Guido. I have told my Superior so many things about you and about the lovely soul of Maman, whose generous heart deserved to be set free from the darkness of Greek scepticism and to enter the Catholic union. He offers his gratitude and his greetings. He told me of his desire to possess the beautiful crucifix I received as a gift from the beloved Carpegna family, but he had a solemn refusal from me; it will be a precious talisman that will give me strength in trouble and in extreme trials and will be a monument to my affection for you. But enough. I say: you will be bored and weary of reading on. I summarise in a single sentence what I want to write to you. I love you, remember me. Give my most affectionate greetings to Papa, to Maman, to Pippo, to Fr Luigi, as I declare myself in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary

Your most affectionate brother

Fr Daniel Comboni, Apostolic Missionary

Count Guido di Carpegna
23. 2.1862
AFC, Pesaro

Verona, 23 February 1862

My beloved and most esteemed Guido!
If I must sincerely reveal my soul to you, I must utter an ardent truth. Among the various correspondences which I keep up in Europe and outside it, the one of which I am fondest is the one I hope to establish with you: my correspondence with the blessed house of Carpegna. You can therefore imagine how pleased I was with your blessed letter of the 10th of this month. Enough on this subject. Since you are a poet and from the work you read to me on the shores of Greece, inspirer of the ancient Orpheus, I foresee that, in time, our homeland will have a worthy cultivator of Italian literature and I would like to send you a poetic endeavour by a friend of mine, a student at my Institute, the priest Fr Vincenzo Ramazzini. It is entitled La Creazione (Creation), and today it is being dedicated by my Institute to Mgr Canossa, on the occasion of his taking possession as Bishop of Verona. This work consists of only seven sonnets on which I long to hear your opinion. When I have the chance I will send you the printed edition, I hope this summer, through the Bishop. Oh! If I could but see your work published, how happy I would be! But fiat: with time and as things develop, it will all come to pass.
I dare to ask another favour of you. One of the most respected naturalists in Europe and a great man of letters, my friend, Dr Pietro Paolo Martinati, collects the autographed works ofmen distinguished in science and letters; and he longs to possess a work in Passaglia’s hand. Would you be able to find me one? Either a letter or a theological work, or anything else; I believe this would not be a hard task for you, a Roman nobleman and former pupil of his at the Collegio Romano and La Sapienza. Take your time and do not miss the opportunity, should it arise. In your first letter, give me your opinion of Creazione, etc.
Now let us come to us. I have heard and pondered about what you told me in your precious letter. Among the blessings of your house, I rejoice to hear that the Falconiere case is proceeding in your favour by leaps and bounds. Praise be to God who is also frequently willing to be generous with earthly happiness here below to those who fear him. I am as pleased as if it were my own good fortune. I was ineffably consoled to hear that the comments made about you to Monsignor came to nothing. I feel esteem for you, for your judgement, your moderation, your prudence, your calm, which means that you will never reach the point of compromising yourself. Be generous and great in stifling a certain exuberance in others which does not conform to your noble and considerate feelings.
Sometimes deep down inside me certain doubts arise as I reflect on that digression late in the evening on the condition of Poland, in the Muscovite Ambassador’s presence; however, considering other things in favour of your wisdom, I am sure that you will never show yourself to be thoughtless but, on the contrary, calm and considerate with regard to all things. Reciprocate the kind greetings of the remarkable eye specialist, the surgeon Mazzoni, and tell him I remember with pleasure that celebration when I was present at those magnificent operations. I am very glad to hear that the blind man sees very well. What a marvellous thing! That lucky wretch is admitted to hospital deprived of the beneficial faculty of sight, and he will leave it an ecstatic admirer of the world’s sublime wonders! Tell him (the Professor) that I will send him my photograph as a souvenir of his kindness in admitting me to those wonderful operations; me, who can scarcely recite the Breviary!
How is Maman? Speak to me of her, always tell me something special about her in your letters. I am glad that H. E. Monsieur Papa, my dear Pippo and Fr Luigi, his worthy tutor and my friend, are all well. Remember that although I know I have no influence with heaven I nonetheless always pray to the Lord for you, for your happiness, for your harmony, for your soul, for your bodies; and it is the most spontaneous and sincerest prayer that can spring from my heart.
Today his Distinguished and Most Reverend Excellency, Mgr Canossa, an illustrious descendant of the renowned Princess Matilde, triumphantly enters Verona as Bishop. My Superior, Fr Nicola Mazza, returns your greetings and thanks you for your kindness: and he remembers you, for I often talk about you and he knows that I accompanied you on the brief crossing from Alexandria to Trieste. All the little Africans offer their respects to their kindest Abu-Dagn. Poor Luigi is very unwell because he has had an excessively precocious spurt of growth. He is twelve years old and as tall as me! As soon as he has recovered, I will have his picture taken and send you some copies. I am waiting impatiently for your photograph and the one of Maman; I will also do the same. I have had no further news from the Polish ladies we know. They wrote to me recently, and I am only too lucky if I hear from them three or four times a year. In Poland, impatience, doubt and fear prevail. May God stretch out his hand over the unfortunate!
Greet all those I have met at your house one by one and pay them my respects; Mazzoni, Mgr Besi, Nardi, Bernini, etc. and my special greetings to Giovanelli and the princesses, wife and mother. But before all the others, I ask you on my behalf to kiss the hands of venerable, dear Maman, guardian angel of your home, of Papa, of my innocent and beloved Pippo and of my dear friend Fr Luigi, from whom I expect a few lines and to whom I will also write later; and I assure you of the everlasting esteem and affection of

Your most unworthy, faithful and affectionate

Fr Daniel

I realise I have been too lengthy and dull.
Peroni, the Veronese, with whom you travelled from Turin to Genoa, tells me to give you his respects.

Card. Alessandro Barnabò
8. 3.1862
AP SC Afr. C., v. 7, f. 298v

Verona, 8 March 1862

Most Eminent Prince!
As soon as I reached Verona I explained to my Superior, Fr Nicola Mazza, your Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Eminence’s splendid thought of entrusting a portion of the Central African Mission to my Institute independently of the Franciscan Fathers, once we have demonstrated to the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide that the Institute has the material and formal means to support this sublime assignment. I cannot describe the effect of Your Most Reverend Eminence’s decision on my venerable old master’s spirit. I can only say that the day Your Most Illustrious Eminence signs the longed-for decree you will be extending this Man of God’s precious life by ten years. Therefore as soon as our two Missionaries, Fr Giovanni Beltrame and Fr Alessandro Dalbosco, reach Verona, we shall define the points of the Mission we intend to develop and the means required to do so. We will lay it all before Your Most Reverend Eminence, throwing ourselves into your loving arms and ready to do any work requested by the Holy Church through the department directed by Your Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Eminence, which is the proper channel. Your Most Reverend Eminence will have seen the sacred vestment that Austria presented to our most beloved Holy Father as a gift. According to Armonia, it is worth 36,000 scudos. It was made by the poor girls at our female Institute, and almost all the gold embroidery was done by the young African girls who are destined to tend the Lord’s Vineyard which will be assigned to us by the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide.
I dare to ask your Eminence the great favour of arranging an audience with His Holiness Pius IX for the two Fathers of S. Camillo de Lellis, one of whom was a student at my Institute. Please do this through the Monsignor Secretary. Please accept distinguished greetings from my Superior and from myself as I kiss the Sacred purple and declare myself with all respect

Your Eminence’s unworthy servant

Fr Daniel Comboni

Count Guido di Carpegna
8. 3.1862
APCV, 287/88

Verona, 8 March 1862

Your Most Illustrious Excellency and my Dearest Friend!
Since you are all goodness and kindness to me, I hope you will grant the reverend Fathers Girelli and Tomerelli (the latter is a pupil from my Institute) the same favour you granted me in January this year, that is, to request a private audience with His Holiness from Mgr Pacca, for matters concerning their order. As soon as I am free to do so, I will be happy to send you a long letter in reply to your valued and most treasured one which reached me four days ago. My best regards to the Countess, to Guido, to Pippo, to Fr Luigi and to Your Most Illustrious Excellency, from

Your most affectionate and unworthy

Fr Daniel Comboni, Apostolic Missionary

Cav. Gaetano Sassi
8. 3.1862
APCV, 287/89

Verona, 8 March 1862

Most Illustrious Cavaliere!
I have no doubt that you will have received a large packet of Pastoral Letters by Mgr Canossa, which I sent a few days ago via Tuscany. I am counting in advance on the goodness you showed me in Rome to ask you to take care of the two Reverend Fathers Girelli and Tomelleri, Ministers of the Sick, who are coming to Rome on business for their Congregation. They may have to turn to you for many things to which those who have not been fortunate enough to be born and to live in the Holy city are not accustomed. You will certainly be able to show them how to gain entry to the various Congregations with which they might have business, to help them obtain an audience with the Supreme Pontiff and to see the most important sights of Rome. I know your kind heart and that of your son: I commend these Fathers to your goodness.
The Bishop is very well; we often speak of the Cavaliere Sassi to whom His Excellency and I send our best regards. My affectionate greetings to your son, and please believe in my great esteem

Your humble servant and friend

Fr Daniel Comboni
Apostolic Missionary of Central Africa