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Fr. Francesco Bricolo
Holy Cross
ACR, A, c. 14/2

My kind and most reverend Fr Francesco!

Holy Cross, 3 Dec 1858
What joy your most dear letters brought me! What good news from the men’s Institute, about the boys’ progress, about their alacrity and perseverance in their good behaviour and their studies, about the tireless and careful work of their beloved Rector, about the blossoming Academy, etc., etc.! I can assure you that all these things made the most vivid impression on us and gave our spirit new strength and vigour with which to correspond as much as we possibly can out here to the magnanimous intentions and plans of our venerable and most beloved Father and Superior.
I thank you with all my heart for all you have done to relieve and comfort my dear parents, and for all you are doing and will be doing to console my poor Father. It is a tremendous thing for me to have lost my mother and to have left my Father alone! But blessed be the Lord forever! This was God’s will for the greater good: I thank him with all my heart. My father is smarting from the bitter loss; but to my supreme consolation I know that he is fully resigned to God’s will. An occasional letter reaching him from the hand of a minister of heaven is the most efficient means to console him and which will have the greatest influence on his spirits to raise his mind to the highest and most serene thoughts.
I enclose with this short letter a little holy picture which I pray you to accept from a poor lonely man in Central Africa. I am almost ashamed to send it: but please forgive my weakness. I have had letters from Fr Valentinelli, Fr Clerici, Carrè, Lucchini, with a Postscriptum from Fr Dorigotti, which are most precious to me. But I cannot answer now. Please give them my greetings. I will write later.
I understand Signora Faccioli has given several books in Arabic to the Superior as a present for me. I hope the Superior will have kept them for the College. I wrote to Signora Faccioli last March but have not had a reply: I am therefore not writing to her. Please give her my very best regards and also to her husband and to Checchino. (I wrote to Dr Patuzzi from Khartoum and from the Holy Cross giving him a short account of our journey: but having received these he did not write to me any more. I shall therefore not waste time writing to him). Please give my very best regards to him as well as to his family (if you should see him, that is). And my godson, how is he?… and Lucchini, how is he?…
Please give our greetings to Fr Tomba, Fr Fochesato, Fr Fuksneker, Fr Fiumi, Fr Bonomini, Fr Galbiero, Fr Brighenti and all the Priests, Clerics and Postulants in the men’s Institute. Also on all our behalf to Fr Cesare, Signora Lucrezia and Elena, Signora Zia, Betta, the Assistant, Mistress Azzaloni and all the Mistresses and the Africans in the women’s Institute.
Similarly from all of us to Fr Benciolini, Marani, Fedelini, Leonotti and all the Stigmatines, the St John of God Brothers, the Professors in the Liceo, and from me especially to Dean Stegagnini, Fr Biadego, Fr Ang.i Ald.ri Bianchi and Ronconi, Signor Toffaloni and Fr Tommaso who are so dear to us, the Farina family, the Brescia Fathers Artini and Peretti, the parish priest of St Stefano, Fr Vignola, Fr Guella, Paiola (Zamboni!!!), Dr Recchia, etc., etc. all the kitchen staff and especially the famous […], and the accountant Gioan, etc., while I renew my expressions of thanks, esteem and affection, I sign with all my heart

Your humble and affectionate

Fr Daniel Comboni

Fr. Francesco Bricolo
6. 4.1859
ACR, A, c. 14/3

Khartoum, 6 April 1859

Most esteemed Fr Francesco!
I do not want to conceal from you how since the very beginning of last December and for the whole journey to Khartoum I have been so battered by fevers and sickness of the stomach that the prognosis as to the outcome of my health cannot be anything but gloomy. I am now extremely weak, riddled with aches and pains and prey to the most terrible breathlessness and all the symptoms that announce that life is coming to its end. May the Lord be eternally praised! Yesterday I was bled: the blood was as rotten as lye but I must confess that it gave me some relief; so we must not lose hope.
May the Lord dispose as best it pleases him. We are in his hands and we are only too well supported. Thus may it be done according to God’s will. A thousand thanks, O dear Fr Francesco, for looking after my father. Here too, may God do as he wills. Oh! How it cheered us when we arrived in Khartoum and heard the good news of the male Institute!
But enough, for I am out of breath. I greet you from my heart. Kiss the hands of our beloved Father Superior for me. I send my regards to Fr Tomba and the Collegio Fondamentale, and commend myself to their prayers; and believe me

All yours, with gratitude and affection,

Fr Daniel

Fr. Pietro Grana
ACR, A, c. 15/42

My Dearest and Esteemed Fr Pietro!

Wadi-Halfa in Nubia, 30/7 1859
On my return from the tribe of the Kich, your dearest letter of 15th September came into my hands in Fandah Eliab among the Nuer. From it, I understood with deep satisfaction the content and peace that you enjoy in your new office, the abundant fruit that you hope to draw from your numerous flock, the desire to have news of Central Africa from me, and many other things. I greatly rejoice at your present fortunate position, and I am quite confident that heaven is sure to crown with prosperous success your efforts and hard work for the benefit of your flock.
I had decided to satisfy your longing by giving you an account of the tribes of Africans that we visited, of their customs, wars, trading, religion etc. etc., what an enormous amount of material I had! For although we were undermined by fever, we were very busy making a great many observations in order to choose the most suitable place where we could put into practice the Mission Plan of our beloved Superior, Fr Mazza. But what can one do? The accumulation of burning fevers and dysentery which this time gave me a taste of the searing pain suffered by those who are close to death so sapped my strength that, apart from occasional interludes when I wrote a few letters to my father, I have not written to anyone nor have I replied to the many who favour me with their letters.
You will know that because of the death of the Missionaries in Khartoum, Fr Giovanni decided that all three of us should go there to help that main post which was a weight on the shoulders of our procurator, Fr Alessandro, whose health is rather uncertain. At the same time, after completing a detailed exploration of the Sobat, we were counting on being able to prepare what we needed to establish the Mission as planned, since we have found the right place among the warlike tribe of the Acien.
I started this journey last January 8th, already worn down by fever; it went on for 87 consecutive days in an uncomfortable boat, and I was the target of my dearest inseparable friends, the Fevers. Arriving in Khartoum on 4th April, although I underwent proper treatment as well as I could, I was stricken with further fevers and a violent bout of dysentery so that, in spite of myself, I was advised by all to give up Central Africa, at least for a period. I remained steadfast in the belief that if I were able to continue the journey, at least to beyond the Tropic of Cancer in Upper Egypt, I would recover my lost health in part; and even more by returning to the homeland.
In Khartoum, after the death of our very healthy blacksmith Isidoro smitten by a sudden brain fever, our beloved companion Fr Angelo Melotto, who had been so well and for many months had not suffered the slightest discomfort, expired in the arms of the Lord. Which is why after my departure from Khartoum only two of the six who had left Verona together remained: Fr Giovanni, strong and robust who owes his health, after God, to the constant haemorrhoidal bleeding that purges him continuously, and Fr Dalbosco, who is very weak, and although he only has slight fevers, since they are so frequent they render him incapable of doing anything.
So what should we do, my dearest friend? Nothing but resign ourselves joyfully to the Lord’s will, eternally blessing his adorable dispositions, return to the homeland for now, and wait for new movements of God’s spirit, ever ready to sacrifice everything and overcome all in order to follow and fulfil the Lord’s will.
So on 17th June last I left Khartoum on a Mission boat and mounting a camel at Omdurman, I crossed the Bayyudah Desert in 14 days. In Abu Daum a boat was rented and in seven days we landed at Dongola [Dunqulah], where I stayed for a few days to wait for the rest of the caravan. I crossed the desert that stretches alongside the great cataracts of the Nile on a dromedary. It took 13 days to reach Wadi-Halfa where, renting another boat, I hope to reach the tropic in 4 days, putting in at Korosko, at the last cataract at Aswan.
Since the great Pasha has forbidden the route through the great Nubian Desert that we crossed in 1857 because it is too difficult and dangerous, I had to take a longer route. Due to my bad state of health I found crossing the two deserts most exhausting, although unlike the great Atmur, we found water in them every two days. I had a fever 11 times on the camel and dysentery once, so that I was obliged to halt the caravan. Otherwise, although I have taken a battering from exhaustion, discomfort, the excessive tropical heat and the deprivations which are part of travelling in the desert, I hope to be out of danger since I have done the hardest part of the journey.
Having crossed all Egypt as far as Cairo on a dhow on the Nile, I will board the French steamship in Alexandria and sailing via Malta along the coast of Italy, and either passing through Piedmont or the Legations, I hope to reach home by mid-September. I am looking forward of course to spending a few days in your new quarters and enjoying a conversation… In the meantime I send you my heartfelt greetings. My greetings also to your family; pray to the Lord for me, and believe me with all my love

Your affectionate Fr Daniel

Fr. Pietro Grana
ACR, A, c. 15/43

Limone, 26 October 1859

Very Reverend Archpriest, My Dear Fr Pietro!
On the 18th of this month I sent a registered trunk addressed to you from Brescia with Mazzoldi. Please be kind enough to forward it to Limone for me as soon as possible. Since a boat is arriving in Toscolano about now, I beg you to send it to me. We are full of amazement and wonder at seeing our hopes have got off to such a good start. God protect religion (I hope)! We are agreed then that I keep my word.
Today I am going to Verona. In a few days I return to Limone and I would then like to spend a day or two with my dearest and long remembered Fr Pierino, in his residence. In the meantime, goodbye. I will keep my word and bring you some small keepsakes from Central Africa. A greeting to your family, to Fr Badinello, etc., and believe me I am always, with my whole heart, ever sincere, and the same, and Italian

Your affectionate friend,

Fr Daniel

Card. Alessandro Barnabò
AP SC Afr. C., v 6, ff. 403–404

Verona, 30 October 1859

Most Reverend Eminence,
As soon as I reached Verona I told my Reverend Superior, Fr Nicola Mazza, of Your Eminence’s wish to have circulated in writing the little we observed and accomplished during our stay in the Central African Mission. The Superior, in accordance with the wish of the Mission’s benefactors, has made public the reports of his Missionaries which he has just received from Africa and is pleased to send them first to your Eminence, in the sincere hope that You will accept them with that indulgence and kindness which is so typical of Your soul, all fire and love for the Holy Missions.
In this fascicle, the third of those already sent to Your Eminence, you will read all we observed with regard to the African land through repeated experiences while we examined the temperament, customs and religious ideas of the Africans in order to apply the most effective method to leading those people to the faith and practice of the Gospel. We postpone until later letting you know about the many other things we recorded which before we can explain them to you will require more time and further investigation.
Ah! May the Lord and the Immaculate Virgin, Queen of Africa, deign to gaze benevolently upon those tribes which are still living in the darkness and the shadows of death and are the focus of our desires.
The dictionary of the Jien or Dinka language, the respective grammar and a voluminous catechism have already been drafted and finalised as well as possible, mainly due to the labours of the Missionary Gio. Beltrame. They should reach Verona by the end of the year. My other companion, Fr Alessandro Dal Bosco, is involved in the formation of the young Africans in Khartoum and is bursar for the whole Central African Mission. Both, together with the reverend Pro-Vicar Kirchner, are enjoying reasonably good health. Eminent and Reverend Prince, please accept the humble respects of my Superior, Fr Mazza, as I reverently bow to kiss the sacred purple. Your Eminence’s most humble, devoted and grateful servant,

Fr Daniel Comboni, Missionary Apostolic

Signatures for Masses
Fr. Nicola Mazza
AMV, Cart. “Missione Africana”

Reverend Father Superior!

Genoa, 28 November 1860
I am sorry not to have been able to take my leave of you on the morning of my departure. On Monday evening we reached Milan, where we spent the night at the Seminary of the Foreign Missions. The Superior, Marinoni, sends you his cordial greetings. Yesterday evening we reached Genoa; and this morning, despite the great rush of travellers bound for Naples to see the king, I managed to make an excellent contract with the Société Marseillaise for the maritime service and obtained a discount of about a third for the passage of the Africans. We shall therefore be leaving for Naples this evening at 10.00 p.m. and will arrive there on Friday.
It would have been cheaper had I waited for the departure of the Anglo-Sardinian Society. But I am pressed to speed up the journey in order to arrive without too much of a rush to coincide with the steamship bound for Egypt. The young people are well, except for Thomas, who is suffering more pain than usual from his spinal problem. This is a further reason why I am trying to speed up the voyage. Fr Superior, I commend myself to your prayers to God that I do not make mistakes in the undertaking with which I have been entrusted and which will certainly result in greater glory to God. In Monza, without my even mentioning it, a Barnabite father gave me 2 gold Napoleons.
Please convey my greetings to Fr Bricolo, and to all the priests, the young men and the Africans of the Institute. As I humbly kiss your hands, in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary I declare myself your

most humble son,

Fr Daniel Comboni

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

My Beloved Fr Superior!

Naples, 1 December 1860
Yesterday at 5 o’clock in the afternoon I arrived safely in Naples. The four young men were very sea-sick; I wasn’t at all. Fr Lodovico welcomed us most courteously and was anxiously waiting for us. He does not know anything about my destination and he never will. He told me it is impossible to have Africans from Egyptian areas because of the excessive vigilance of the Turkish and English police. However, this does not scare me. Fr Olivieri’s work has come to an end. All the Consulates in Egypt have made him the object of their attention. The greatest prudence is essential if I am not to have the same fate as he.
It will be necessary to stay four or five days in Naples to find out Fr Verri’s story from Fr Lodovico and how he incurred the indignation of all the representations in Egypt, so that I can avoid anything that could harm me and embrace all that could be useful. Of course, I will need to provide myself with the powerful protection of some European authority. Before leaving Naples I will write to you about what I have prepared with regard to the successful progress of the matter in my hands. Fr Lodovico and all the Africans of Naples kiss your hands. Pray to the Holy Spirit

for your unworthy son

Fr Daniel Comboni, missionary apostolic

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

Rome, 21 December 1860

Very Reverend and Dearly Beloved Fr Superior!
I hope that you received my two letters from Naples, in the last of which I explained to you the reasons that led me to go to Palermo. I reached Naples with ample time to be able to leave for Egypt promptly from there. But acquiring full knowledge of the difficulties, or rather of the impossibility of shipping young Africans through Egypt without high-level and powerful recommendations, I resolved to wait for the chance arrival of steamships for Egypt and in the meantime to provide myself with the highest recommendations, to ensure the successful outcome of our project.
The two Consulates in Egypt which hinder the passage of Africans more than the others are the English and the Sardinian. I therefore thought to obtain the widest recommendations for both these impious tribunals of inquisition; and, after going to Palermo (where the Court of His Sardinian Majesty was in residence) and to Rome (where the English Ambassador is a good Catholic) I managed to obtain a recommendation for the Sardinian Consul in Egypt by order of the king; and two additional letters for the English Consul in Egypt, one from the English Ambassador in Rome, and the other from Lord Pope-Hennessy, an important English dignitary who, as he was about to return to England, gave me an address where I could turn if necessary, to obtain even higher protection.
Count Fabrizi, minister of Victor Emmanuel from whom as a Sardinian subject I implored the protection of my Sardinian Consul in Egypt, advised me to present myself to the king in person, assuring me that Victor Emmanuel, as a benefactor of the Missions, in addition to his recommendations, would have assisted me with substantial donations, but I most courteously refused.
As a Sardinian subject there is no harm in asking for protection as was done by the Mission of Central Africa which asked and obtained protection for Aswan from such an enemy of the Faith as the Pasha of Egypt. But it is quite another matter to become involved with a king who is persecuting the Church for money. If I had accepted money from Victor Emmanuel I would certainly have jeopardised myself, the Institute and the Mission, for reading in the Austrian papers that a Missionary of the Mazza Institute received a sum from a king who is an enemy of the Church and of the Austrian Government would have affected politico-religious opinion, not only of myself but also of the Institute. Thus the eyes of Propaganda, the Austrian Government and the Society of Mary in Vienna would have been on us and I would have seriously compromised the Institute and the successful outcome of the Mission. As a result, I refused any conversation with the king, counting on a valid recommendation which it was not at all embarrassing for me to beg and obtain, and hoping that just as I left Verona without Victor Emmanuel’s help, I would return with the young Africans without his assistance.
However, before I avail myself of either Sardinian or English
recommendations, I will keep my eyes wide open in Egypt and in secret thoroughly investigate if it is timely to do so. Mgr Nardi, a true friend to our Mission and our Institute, was a considerable help in obtaining the recommendations for me. Likewise for my journey to Rome he was moved by a spirit of economy, since the French Ambassador in Naples refused me a free passage on the French steamers without express instructions from Propaganda.

Consequently I turned to Cardinal Barnabò, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide, and he deigned to give me 3 letters, in one of which he declares that I am an Apostolic Missionary. In the other two he addresses the French and Austrian Embassies and declaring me an Apostolic Missionary, requests a free passage for me on the French steamers for the journey out as far as Alexandria, and on Lloyd Austriaco for the return journey from Alexandria to Trieste. I am happy about this because while waiting for the next steamers to Egypt I have benefited by obtaining valid recommendations for the happy outcome of our undertaking and saved more than a hundred thalers by providing myself with the letters from Propaganda.
Today I was admitted to the audience of His Holiness Pius IX. It was very short. In my opinion the Pope has aged enormously. I asked him for his blessing for you, Fr Superior, for the male and female Institutes, for Africa, for my father and for me: “Yes, my son” he said with a generous heart that embraces the universe, I give my blessing to you all, to all. I left very glad to have seen the Vicar of Jesus Christ. He seems to me to be a more than human person. All is quiet in Rome. In Naples there is great chaos. The clergy and many of the people sympathise with the Bourbon King. It is quite the opposite in Sicily. Here in Rome both the Pope and the Pontifical Government are well loved.
In travelling from Naples to Rome, I felt the same impressions that someone travelling from Babylon to Jerusalem would feel. Fr Luciano from Lonigo, who was with me all the time, feels the same.
Fr Olivieri’s work, as the Superior of the Institute of Africans in Naples told me, has ground to a complete halt. The Egyptian consular police are all eyes to see whether Africans are slipping through so I must avoid the slightest appearance of any communication with him. I did my best to examine the progress of the College in Naples and I see it has made eminent progress in piety and in moral conduct and to some extent in education. There are some who are studying philosophy there.
Fr Lodovico conceived of a plan substantially similar to yours. It can be seen that the Lord is causing attention to be focused on Africa. He has an array of arts and crafts in his Institute. There are grocers and the workshops of carpenters, blacksmiths, ironmongers, etc. and cobblers, tailors, experts and teachers in each one of these crafts. There is a large garden where agriculture is practised. All in all, it seems to me that it has made a good beginning. He now has 6 lay people to send to Africa. He has founded other Institutes, that is, one for African girls to be educated and then sent back to Africa, one for Missionaries in Italy, one for teaching the poor, another for the handicapped, another for the Reform movement, like that of the Blessed Leonardo in Porto Maurizio; all at his own expense, which he covers by requesting donations as you do, Fr Superior. He was adored by King Francis II, and is also respected by the Sardinian Government, which sent Fr Lodovico to Rome to summon the Cardinal Archbishop back to his See in Naples.
Both Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel have shown great sympathy for the works of Fr Ludovico and especially for the College for Africans. But Fr Lodovico deplores the fate of Francis II, and prays fervently to the Lord that he return to his throne in Naples, because the young king, he tells me, was a true father of the Africans.
Here in Rome I set about acquiring books so as to learn the Abyssinian tongue which could easily be needed in our African Institute. But I found very little in Propaganda. Now a grammar is being printed and as soon as it is ready the Cardinal promises he will send it to me in Verona. In the Orient I will contrive to have everything that comes to me written in the Abyssinian language.
Since for the reasons explained above I was unable to take the last steamer to Egypt, I sent a letter to the Prefect Apostolic in Aden recommending the young Africans to him. Since hell can raise so many obstacles against the holy undertaking in our hands, what I would like is that you, Fr Superior, would order a Hail Mary and a Glory be to be said ad hoc to Mary, Virgin Immaculate or to St Francis Xavier by both the male and female Institutes. But, Fr Superior, do what pleases you.
Tomorrow I leave from Rome for Malta and Alexandria. If the winter storms are not excessively violent, I hope to arrive there on 27th of this month. In the meantime please pray to the Lord and to Mary that they watch over me so that I do not blunder. Then you will tell me in technical terms and clearly, of every fault or error I have made; and your orders and advice will regulate my activities. Receive the Pope’s blessing, Cardinal Barnabò’s greetings and those of Mgr Nardi, Fr Pagani, the General of the Institute of Charity and Fr Luigi Pueker; as well as the most humble and cordial sentiments of respect and love

from your unworthy and most affectionate son,

Fr Daniel Comboni

N.B. I beg you to offer my humble respects to Fr Pietro Albertini, Bishop Canossa, Fr Cesare, the teachers, the priests, and the Africans. Tell Maestra Lucrezia that I made a fervent Memento for her St Gaetano, on the day that I celebrated Mass on his tomb in Naples.
N.B. I have just had another conversation with Mgr Nardi, who tells me that the above-mentioned Lord Pope-Hennessy is a member of the English Parliament in London. He charges me to convey his respectful greetings to you. The recommendation was drawn up by Russell. Returning home just now, I found an English letter from Lord Pope-Hennessy himself who kindly writes to me suggesting that should some difficulty arise in Egypt, I should telegraph him personally in the House of Commons in London. He will do everything I desire for the work to which I am dedicated, calling on the ministers of Parliament and Queen Victoria. His Eminence Cardinal Barnabò advised me to bring the Africans from Egypt to Europe two at a time.
Another important person in Rome, an acquaintance of mine who lived in the Orient for 20 years as Superior of St Joseph’s Institute in Jerusalem, is aware of the subterfuges of the English in the Orient and advised me to take them to Europe by the route through the Suez Desert and Constantinople. I planned to come by the Cape of Good Hope should I meet with difficulties in Egypt. But I hope I shall be able to avoid these ruses since I can rely on the recommendations of Lord Russell and Pope. Pray to the Lord; I shall take all the necessary precautions. I believe I am aware of all that is at stake in this important matter, so everything will go well. As I implore your blessing, I profess myself to be

Your Fr Daniel

I am leaving Rome immediately.

Signatures for Masses