New Bishop in South Sudan “missionary with sincere earnestness, love for humans”: Confrere

Bishop Carlassare at St. Josephine Bakhita Mapuordit Parish of Rumbek Diocese on 3 April 2022. Credit: Fr. Luka Dor, Rumbek Diocese.

A confrere of the newly ordained Bishop in South Sudan has described him as a person who takes his missionary vocation seriously and who has “love for humans”.

In a statement obtained by ACI Africa, Fr. Gregor Schmidt looks back at his encounter with Bishop Christian Carlassare at a Parish in South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese in 2012 and describes the “almost 5 years” of their Priestly ministry at the same Parish as “a blessed and joyful time together”.

Bishop Carlassare, the member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) says, “lives his faith and his vocation as a missionary with sincere earnestness and love for humans.”

“He draws his strength from his relationship with the Lord Jesus and focuses in his pastoral work to make people trust in Jesus and follow Him wholeheartedly,” Fr. Schmidt says about his confrere in his statement that begins with a narration of the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Carlassare on March 25, when he took canonical possession of South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese.

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor, Rumbek Diocese


Bishop Carlassare’s missionary “earnestness prevents him from frittering away his time; instead, he has been working focused as a Parish Priest, as a formator in the Comboni Province and in his position as (Vicar General) of the Diocese of Malakal,” Fr. Schmidt explains.

The German-born Priest goes on to describe his Italian-born confrere as one with “a healthy humor, which pays attention to the unintentional comedy of human behavior.”

“We laughed a lot in Old Fangak. Christian’s humor does not show at the expense of others, but he makes people feel relaxed to laugh together,” Fr. Schmidt says, recalling their life together at Holy Trinity Parish, one of the Parishes of Malakal Diocese under the pastoral care of Comboni Missionaries.

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor, Rumbek Diocese

In his statement ACI Africa obtained on March 31, Fr. Schmidt recounts the arrival of Bishop Carlassare in South Sudan as a missionary in 2005, “the year of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the southern regions and the government in Khartoum,” the agreement that “paved the way for (South Sudan’s) independence in 2011.”

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He recalls the 8 March 2021 Papal appointment of his confrere as Bishop of Rumbek and the aftermath of the early hours of April 26 last year when the Bishop-elect was attacked and shot in both legs.

“Christian himself was shot after his appointment and will carry the scars on his legs all his life,” Fr. Schmidt says, adding that it was on the day of his Episcopal Ordination, March 25, that his confrere “returned for the first time to the room where the attack happened last year in April.”

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor, Rumbek Diocese

The return to the room where Priests serving at Holy Family Cathedral of Rumbek Diocese reside was an emotional experience for all those who accompanied the 44-year-old Bishop, including “his parents and a group of Comboni Missionaries”, Fr. Schmidt recalls in his statement.

He continues, “We prayed arm in arm together in the room where the bullet holes are still seen, about 15 holes in the walls and the door. When the father of Christian attempted to say a prayer, his words became tears and we all had tears in our eyes.”


The visit to the room, Fr. Schmidt goes on to say, “was a blessed moment, being aware that God had protected Christian to make the Gospel a light of hope in this country burdened through violence.”

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor, Rumbek Diocese

“We also remembered the words of Jesus that a true shepherd does not abandon his sheep in times of trouble, but will offer his life for them. Christian confessed to this when he shared in his thanksgiving Mass on Sunday (March 27) that he never had doubts to return. The Catholics applauded spontaneously,” the Comboni Missionary Priest ministering in Malakal Diocese says.

He goes on to reflect about the presence of the Comboni Missionaries in the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC), the forum of the Local Ordinaries in South Sudan that has seven Dioceses and Sudan that has two Dioceses.

Bishop Carlassare “is the only foreign Bishop and currently the second Comboni Bishop,” Fr. Schmidt says, making reference to Bishop Matthew Remijio who has been at the helm of South Sudan’s Wau Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in January 2021. The South Sudanese Bishop has also been serving as the Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek Diocese following the Papal appointment on 5 May 2021.

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Credit: Fr. Luka Dor, Rumbek Diocese

Bishop Carlassare’s canonical possession of Rumbek Diocese comes at a time when the political situation in South Sudan “is deepening again” and “remains fragile”, Fr. Schmidt says in reference to the protracted conflict between President Salva Kiir and the first Vice President, also called the opposition leader, Dr. Riek Machar. 

He explains the latest about the violent conflict that started in December 2013. He says, “While we were celebrating in Rumbek, soldiers of the president were gathering near the airport and the house of the opposition leader who made an appeal to the international community. There is a risk that the country slides back to open civil war.”

Fr. Schmidt expresses optimism for the country with the planned Papal visit saying, “The visit of the Pope to Juba in July 2022 gives us some hope.”

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor, Rumbek Diocese

The Holy Father is scheduled to visit South Sudan from July 5-7 in his two-African-nation pastoral trip that is to begin in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on July 2.

In his statement, Fr. Schmidt regrets the fact that Catholic Bishops in South Sudan “do not have a unified response or strategy to a path of reconciliation for this multi-ethnic society.”

“I place my hope in the new Bishop of Rumbek, who was a shepherd for the Nuer in previous years and now has become a shepherd for the Dinka, because he defends impartially the dignity, freedom and well-being of each human being,” the Comboni Missionary Priest says about his confrere, Bishop Carlassare. 

He goes on to draw inspiration from St. Daniel Comboni saying, “Our founder Daniel Comboni was not the first missionary in Sudan, but he was the first who returned. All other missionaries (who) survived their visit did not.”

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor, Rumbek Diocese

“May the return of Christian Carlassare be a sign that God will bring blessings and healing for the peoples of South Sudan,” Fr. Schmidt implores in his statement in which he recognizes with appreciation the Episcopal motto of Bishop Carlassare. 

“Bishop Christian has chosen his motto from Galatians 3:28 ‘All of you are one in Christ Jesus.’ He wants to gather people and reconcile them through Christ to God,” Fr. Schmidt says.

He adds in reference to the new Local Ordinary of Rumbek Diocese, “As a shepherd of the Diocese his words and actions shall point to the self-giving of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ and the love of the merciful heavenly Father.”

Bishop Carlassare has succeeded his confrere and compatriot, Bishop Caesar Mazzolari who governed the South Sudanese Diocese since 1990, first as Apostolic Administrator, and from January 1999, as Bishop. The native of Italy’s Brescia Diocese died on 16 July 2011.

Fr. Don Bosco Onyalla is ACI Africa’s founding Editor-in-Chief. He was formed in the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans), and later incardinated in Rumbek Diocese, South Sudan. He has a PhD in Media Studies from Daystar University in Kenya, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Communication from Marist College, New York, USA.