Preparations Underway for Beatification of Comboni Priest Who Embraced Lepers in Uganda

Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosoli, a Comboni Missionary Priest who ministered in Uganda’s Archdiocese of Gulu as a beloved minister of the Eucharist, surgeon, philanthropist, and educator. Credit: Comboni Uganda

Many remember Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosoli, a Comboni Missionary Priest who ministered in Uganda’s Archdiocese of Gulu as a beloved minister of the Eucharist, surgeon, philanthropist, and educator in the Eastern African country where he is set to be beatified on November 20.

Still, memories of a humble and loving Catholic Priest who combated the stigma against lepers in Uganda, allowing them to mingle freely with other patients at a local dispensary he transformed into a full-fledged hospital, are still fresh.

In an interview with Vatican News, Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu Archdiocese said that as a doctor, Fr Ambrosoli served everybody with love.

“People always felt the presence of God through him. He was a great man of prayer, charity, self-giving, humility, and was one imbued with that universal perspective of life,” Archbishop Odama is quoted as saying in the Sunday, August 21 Vatican News report.

The Ugandan Archbishop told Vatican News that Fr. Ambrosoli handled people with God’s love, adding, “One of his famous statements was, ‘God is love and I am his servant to the suffering people.’ It is actually more than just a statement. It is a compelling message.”


“Besides, Fr Ambrosoli often prayed, ‘God free me from myself so that I can love everyone, including those who are not loved by anyone. Let me love them all,’” Archbishop Odama said.

Born in 1923 in the Province of Como, Italy, Fr. Ambrosoli arrived in Uganda in February 1956.

While in Gulu, he relocated to Kalongo, a town in Northern Uganda that is served by Gulu Archdiocese, where he founded 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.

A report by the Comboni Missionaries indicates that in 1957, Fr. Giuseppe began treating many leprosy patients who were embraced with love at the facility.

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“Fr. Giuseppe revolutionized the care for leprosy patients by admitting them to the same hospital as other patients instead of confining them to the often neglected and poorly managed leprosarium,” the Comboni Missionaries say.

According to the Missionaries, the Kalongo Hospital, 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.

Archbishop Odama told Vatican News that the Archdiocese of Gulu feels very blessed to have yet another Blessed in its midst. The Archdiocese already has Martyrs Jildo Irwa and Daudi Okello. The two are Blessed Martyrs of Gulu.

The Archbishop of Gulu said that Fr. Ambrosoli was fondly referred to by Ugandans as the good doctor or the saintly doctor, adding that to this day, people speak fondly about his unique compassion and kindness in caring for patients.


“After he died in 1987, people felt that this man must have been a holy person,” Archbishop Odama said, and added, “I took the courage to constitute a small committee to see how we could start the process of beatification.””

He continued, “The Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican encouraged us to tell people to pray so that we could have some favors through the intercession of Fr Ambrosoli. About two years ago, a miracle happened in the hospital. A lady with a malignant tumor got healed through the intercession of Fr Ambrosoli.”

“All I can say is that this man shows that all of us are called to sainthood,” the Ugandan Archbishop told Vatican News, adding that Fr. Ambrosoli will be beatified in the Parish of Kalongo of the Archdiocese of Gulu, located some 130 Km from the town of Gulu.

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.