Saturday, 4 October 2003

Vatican City (Fides Service) – Fides Service asked Fr. Fidel Gonzalez Fernandez mccj
Rector Pontifical Urban College to comment on Bishop Daniele Comboni in the historical and social context of the 19th century. Here are excerpts from the article which you can read article in Italian section saints Italian.

"Daniele Comboni was truly a precursor and prophet of what Africa was to be", wrote Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, who presented the Cause for Comboni’s beatification. "Daniel Comboni was father, shepherd and friend of Africa", wrote a missionary present with Daniele Comboni when he died prematurely in Khartoum on 10 October 1881 at the age of fifty.
Comboni’s life dedicated to the people of Africa coincides with one of the most discussed periods in modern Africa. Africa of the 19th century was marked by all sorts of passions and contradictions: explorations, struggles between colonial powers, confrontation with the Muslim world, slave trafficking, tribal wars. It is in this scene that we must set the Catholic Church’s missionary movement of which Comboni was one of the fathers. His missionary passion for the peoples of Africa can be summed up in his mottoes: Africa or death; Saving or regenerating Africa with Africa; and his signature: Daniele, Comboni, slave of Blacks.
He set out for Africa in 1857 with one of the first missionary groups. When most of the missionaries died and the mission was considered closed and a failure, Comboni remained faithful to his missionary oath. He proposed a Plan for the evangelisation of Africa in which from the outset Africans were the main subjects of evangelisation (regenerating Africa with Africa) (1864). He started the mission again (1872) with the support of Pope Pius IX and against the opinion of many ecclesiastical and secular circles who saw his initiative as an illusory dream. He promoted a missionary movement involving, bishops, priests, religious and laity with the same passion: to make Christ present in Africa. For this purpose he established various missionary societies and institutes. Comboni was one of the first in the Church to emphasise that missionary vocation is part of the baptismal duties of every Christian “not something for only brothers and nuns”. This is why he opened mission ad gentes to diocesan priests and the laity, consecrated and married. He wanted women in the mission – nuns, ‘virgins of charity’ and the married ‘missionaries in mission lands’. He was the first to take missionary women to the heart of Africa. He insists that a Christian is called to mission from the moment of baptism. Already in 1867 he took with him to Africa 15 young Africans, men and women, former slaves who had become Christians and whom he had trained to be teachers.
Comboni was the first Bishop of central Africa. An indomitable wrestler against Arab slave trafficking, he condemned also political exploitation and the ambiguous missionary policies of some Catholic ecclesiastics and political leaders of his time.
“For Daniel Comboni – wrote Cardinal Arinze – consumed by the desire to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with every man and woman in Africa, the evangelisation of Africa is a task for the whole Church…In Comboni’s time many thought of Africa in terms of exploration, occupation, division or dominion. Others dreamed of Africa to be helped, civilised, educated. But they too saw Africa as an object not as a subject. But this was not how Comboni saw it…”(Arinze). He wanted Africa to shine with the fullness of the face of Christ. In this lies his holiness, he is a miracle of God, that is, he is a sign of God’s love for all Africa. SL (Fides Service 4/10/2003 EM lines 41 Words: 557)