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Three Suspects in South Sudan Bishop-elect’s Shooting Close to Detained Priest: Witness

Photo of the Six Accused suspect and their defense lawyers during the court hearing Wednesday, 9 February 2022. Credit: Catholic Radio Network (CRN)

Three suspects in the shooting of the Bishop-elect for the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek in South Sudan closely related with one of their co-accused, a Catholic Priest, a witness has told the court in Juba.

The witness who expressed his familiarity with three suspects during the Wednesday, February 9 court session said that while one frequented the Fathers’ residence at Holy Family Cathedral Parish of Rumbek Diocese, the other two visited Fr. John Mathiang, one of the six suspects, “as friends and relatives do.”

“I know three of these six accused suspects; one used to drive Fr. Mathiang’s car in and out of the compound, and the other two (came) for visit(s) as friends and relatives do,” the witness, identified as Luka Dor Agor, said about suspects in the shooting of Mons. Christian Carlassare in April last year.

In a Catholic Radio Network (CRN) report about the ongoing case that was first mentioned on January 26 at the High Court in Juba, Dor is described as “head of Seminarians” who was in the same compound as Mons. Carlassare on the night the latter was shot. 

Fr. Mathiang was in his room at the Fathers’ residence on the night the Bishop-elect was shot, Dor is said to have told the court on February 9, adding that he (Fr. Mathiang) did not leave his room when Mons. Carlassare was shouting for help.

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“Fr. Andrea (Osman) anointed the Bishop (-elect), and we pulled him to the bed sheet. It was Fr. Andrea, myself, Albino Kok plus the Seminarians; we carried him (Mons. Carlassare) to the car and we took him to the hospital,” Dor said, adding that Fr. Mathiang joined in when the injured Bishop-elect was being taken to hospital. 

In his testimony during the February 9 court session, Fr. Andrea recalled the physical looks of two gunmen who stormed the Fathers’ residence in search of the Bishop-elect saying, “One was tall and one was short and thin; both covered their faces with clothes and one was wearing army-like clothes.”

Mons. Carlassare who has since recovered was shot in both legs during the early hours of 26 April 2021. 

The Italian-born member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) received initial treatment at the health facility under the auspices of Doctors with Africa CUAMM in Rumbek and later airlifted to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, where he was admitted at The Nairobi Hospital.

One of the suspects “confessed that he was the one who shot the Bishop,” Justice Alexander Sebur Subek told journalists in Juba shortly after the February 3 court session, identifying the suspect by one name, Sebit, and as “accused number five”.

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Earlier this week, another suspect is said to have admitted to having been involved in the shooting of the Bishop-elect.

Some of the exhibits being presented in the South Sudan’s High Court in the ongoing case include two AK47 guns,13 spent bullets, four unused bullets, and a flash disk that is said to contain video footage of the crime scene. 

Rumbek Diocese became vacant in July 2011 following the sudden death of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari. The Comboni Missionary Bishop collapsed during the celebration of Holy Eucharist on the morning of 16 July 2011, one week after South Sudan’s independence, and was confirmed dead at the Rumbek State Hospital that morning.

Fr. Fernando Colombo, a member of the Comboni Missionaries, governed the South Sudanese Diocese as Diocesan Administrator until 27 December 2013, when Fernando Cardinal Filoni, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed Fr. Mathiang Diocesan Coordinator.

The Diocese of Rumbek is currently under the leadership of Bishop Matthew Remijio of South Sudan’s Wau Diocese.

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Bishop Remijio was appointed as the Apostolic Administrator of the South Sudanese Diocese on 5 May 2021 with the mandate to temporarily govern the Diocese until Mons. Carlassare is “healed, ordained and takes over the governance of that Diocese.”

Patrick Juma Wani contributed to the writing of this story