Pope Francis Declares July 28 Feast Day of Comboni Priest Who Ministered in Uganda

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The Feast Day of Blessed Giuseppe Ambrosoli, a Comboni Priest who served in Uganda’s Archdiocese of Gulu for years will be July 28.

Pope Francis made the declaration in an Apostolic Letter that was read out during the November 20 beatification of the Italian-born Catholic Priest who has been celebrated as an exemplary medic and a loving Priest.

In the letter, the Holy Father described Blessed Ambrosoli as "a good Samaritan" who he said had "made himself close to the needy", especially the sick people in Kalongo, where the Comboni Missionary Priest ran a hospital that attended to the poor people in Northern Uganda, including lepers who he embraced with love.

"Accepting the wish our brother John Baptist Odama, Metropolitan Archbishop of Gulu, of many brothers in the Episcopate, and of a great many faithful, having obtained the opinion of the Dicastery for the course of saints, with our Apostolic authority, we grant that the venerable servant of God Giuseppe Ambrosoli, professed Priest of the Congregation of Comboni Missionaries of the heart of Jesus, doctor and Priest who as a good Samaritan tirelessly made himself close to the needy, to heal their wounds of  body and soul, may he henceforth be called Blessed and be celebrated each year on the 28th of July in the places and according to the rules of the law," Pope Francis said in the Apostolic letter.

Relaying the message of the Holy Father, the Apostolic Nuncio in Uganda, Archbishop Luigi Bianco, said that the Apostolic letter was granted at Rome on October 7 on the memorial of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.  


In his homily during the beatification celebration, Archbishop Luigi called on the people of God to follow the example of Blessed Ambrosoli who he said had been selfless in his service as a Priest and medical doctor.

"The new Blessed offers the best example of a person who did not look to his own interest; but his life was completely in tireless giving for the healing of wounds of bodies and souls of the needy, both as a Priest and a medical doctor. The Apostolic letter of Pope Francis presents him as a good Samaritan," Archbishop Luigi said.

He added, "We are invited to consider the heroic virtues of the new Blessed Giuseppe Ambrosoli faith, hope, charity, humility, goodness, patience, generosity, spirit of service, sense of duty and availability."

The representative of the Holy Father in Uganda noted that many people who had interacted with the Comboni Missionary had given an account of a Priest they found to be "extraordinarily humble".

"He accomplished in his life what he proclaimed with his lips: God is love and I am His servant for the people who suffer," the Nuncio in Uganda said, adding that Blessed Ambrosoli combined faith and charity throughout his life, taking care of souls and bodies.

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Fr. Ambrosoli's "human profession and Priestly attributes", the Archbishop said, would reflect God's closeness to all the people, "but especially to those who were in pain and suffering."

He noted that Blessed Ambrosoli, being a famous doctor, was always careful to emphasize that it was not his fame that should prevail but rather the glory of God.

The representative of Pope Francis in the East African country said that the developments that can now be seen in Kalongo would not have been possible without the generous, enthusiastic and skilled participation of many women and men who he said had been moved by the inspiration of Blessed Ambrosoli.

He noted that people wondered how the Comboni Priest managed to do all the work in Kalongo, adding, "He was a man of prayer. The reason for such firmness, commitment and availability had its own source in prayer he used to raise in the early hours of morning and late in the night."

Born in 1923 in the Province of Como, Italy, Blessed Ambrosoli, also known as Joseph, arrived in Uganda in February 1956.


While in Gulu, he relocated to Kalongo, a town in Northern Uganda that is served by the Archdiocese of Gulu, where he devoted his energy, skills and medical expertise to the growth of the Kalongo Hospital.

The facility reportedly gained a reputation for excellence, growing only from a dispensary to a full-fledged hospital, which started delivering babies and attending to medical and pediatric patients.

The Kalongo Hospital, which was recently renamed the Dr. Ambrosoli Memorial Hospital, is a 350-bed facility that treats nearly 60,000 patients every year.

Interrupted by war, Fr. Ambrosoli was reportedly forced to move all the hospital staff, 150 patients and 1,500 soldiers and civilians to Lira, still in Northern Uganda, in 1987 on military orders. It is in Lira that the Comboni Missionary died, though his body was returned to Kalongo seven years later.

In an interview with ACI Africa in September, Fr. Egidio Tocalli who ministered alongside Fr. Ambrosoli, and thereafter, took over the management of Kalongo hospital, said that Fr. Ambrosoli converted Kalongo into a full-fledged hospital that performed the most complicated surgeries in the East African nation, sometimes attracting patients from neighboring Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia.

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Fr Egidio said that Fr. Ambrosoli is a good example to medics, and explained during the November 21 interview, “Fr. Joseph Ambrosoli is a good example for Christians and especially for doctors and nurses. Doctors and nurses should learn from his respect for the sick; his love and tenderness.” They should learn not to prioritize money but to cure people. God gave them a great gift to cure the sick.”

In a reflection that was shared with ACI Africa on November 7, Fr. Arnaldo Baritussio, the Postulator in Fr. Ambrosoli’s beatification, said that he remembered the late Italian Priest’s words, “Try to do things perfectly, but if you manage just to do them well, do not undo them to make them perfect, you would ruin them; be satisfied with having done them well. But always look for perfection.”

Fr Ambrosoli is also known to have said, “When you don't know which way to choose, always take the one that costs you the most: it's the right way.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.