Come back, Comboni!

On the 5th October 2003, Daniel Comboni was canonised. On that occasion, Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir of Karthoum, cried out in his homily: “Come back Comboni, to where you belong!” In fact, Comboni, although born an Italian, belongs to Africa: “It was in January 1849, as a 17-year-old student in philosophy, I vowed to consecrate my whole life to the apostolate of Africa” (Writings, 4083)BY FR JEREMIAS MARTINS, MCCJ

The words of Cardinal Zubeir echo what Comboni said in his homily in Khartoum when, in 1873, he returned to Africa, after a period of convalescence: “I departed through obedience: but I left my heart in your midst. I have returned among you never again to cease being yours” (Writings, 3156–58).

Cardinal Zubeir, besides reclaiming
Comboni as Sudanese and African, invited
all, including the sons and daughters of
Comboni, to know him better and to
follow in his footsteps: “Comboni left
his heart here. His heart is ours… And
we know that this heart is full of love. …
Comboni is not yet known; neither by our
priests or even by those who say that they
are Comboni missionaries. If they were to
know him, they would have preached to
us about Comboni earlier and talked about
his holiness to us earlier… ”

These words are an invitation to the
Comboni missionaries to give Comboni
back to Africa, where he belongs. His

canonisation is the official recognition by
the Church of the holiness of Comboni,
and therefore, it is the proclamation that
Comboni does not belong only to the
Comboni missionaries, but to the Church,
to the world and especially to Africa.
Great numbers of Comboni
missionaries work in Africa. From Cairo to
the Cape there are Comboni communities
in many countries. This implies some
challenges for us:

  • We are called to know Comboni better:
    his writings, his vision for Africa, his deep
    feelings, and to embody his passion for
    God and the peoples of Africa.
  • We should allow ourselves to be inspired
    by him, to be possessed by his missionary
    zeal, his boldness for the sake of the gospel.
  • We have to make Comboni known
    to others: friends, parishioners, people
    who come into contact with us. Wherever
    we go, we should inspire others with
    Comboni’s enthusiasm.

With Cardinal Zubeir, let us say: “Come
back, Comboni! Come back, and instil
in us your missionary spirit; come back
and bring with you the passion for our
mission; come back to Africa and teach us
how to be a missionary Church; come, and
increase our love for the African people;
come and give us the spirit of the servant
of the Gospel and the strength to give
ourselves completely to others, especially
the poor and rejected.