“Divine mercy has protected me”, Catholic Bishop in South Sudan on Coping after Shooting

Bishop Christian Carlassare of South Sudan's Rumbek Diocese. Credit: ACI Africa

Bishop Christian Carlassare who was shot in April 2021, weeks after his appointment as to the Local Ordinary of the Diocese of Rumbek in South Sudan, is holding up fine.

In an interview with ACI Africa on the sidelines of the 20th Plenary Assembly of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Bishop Carlassare said he continues to serve the people of God in South Sudan “with humility and joy” and that he is protected by divine mercy.

Asked how he’s been holding up since the shooting incident on 26 April 2021, and his lengthy journey to recovery, the Italian-born member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) who has ministered in South Sudan since 2005 said, “Divine mercy has protected me. Divine mercy inspires me to continue my ministry with humility and joy.”

In the July 13 interview, the 44-year-old Catholic Bishop added in reference to his shooting ordeal, “I kept all that has happened and my brothers and sisters of South Sudan in my heart recognizing how much violence has marked the history of this country. My Episcopal Motto aimed at peace and unity in Christ.”

Credit: ACI Africa


In his coat of arms, which symbolically represents his Episcopal Motto, “Omnes unum in Christo (you are all one in Christ Jesus)”, Bishop Carlassare has a pastoral staff and walking stick crossed, which he said in a March statement are a replacement of “two traditional spears”.

“The traveling stick has a gourd tied on it, which is used to carry milk for the journey,” he said in the March 14 statement, which he shared with ACI Africa, and explained, “The path of Christian life starts with the water of baptism, which indicates our conversion and profession of faith.”

“This faith is nourished with bread: bread to eat and the Eucharistic bread, which is Jesus Christ who comes to us and accompanies us along the way,” he further explained in reference to his Episcopal Motto and coat of arms, adding, “The Eucharistic bread is bread broken and given to us, as Jesus gave us his life, and calls us to be bread broken and given to all our brothers and sisters.”

In the July 13 interview, the successor of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari who died on 16 July 2011 said that his shooting ordeal has made him connect more with South Sudan that has experienced civil war since December 2013.

Bishop Carlassare told ACI Africa, “Now I understand there cannot be peace and unity without mercy and compassion.”

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He went on to appeal to the people of God in South Sudan to embrace unity, to show concern for one another, and to take care of the environment.

“Let’s overcome the dichotomy between friend and enemy. Let’s recognize that we all belong to the same nation and work for unity. Love and compassion for one another will also demand that we care for our land and use resources for the benefit of all,” he said.

The Bishop who has been at the helm of Rumbek Diocese since his consecration on March 25 said he was thrilled to attend his first ever Plenary Assembly as Bishop, noting that he had learnt a lot from the challenges and opportunities in the other countries of AMECEA.

Credit: ACI Africa

He said his participation in the 20th Plenary Assembly that brought together over 100 Catholic Bishops and other from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, as well as from the AMECEA affiliate countries of Djibouti and Somalia brought him in “communion” with Catholic Church leaders in the region.


The AMECEA Plenary Assembly in Dar es Salaam has been “a great experience of communion with the other Bishops members of AMECEA and participation in the journey of the Churches in this specific area of the world with the responsibility to evangelize all aspects of our cultures and societies,” Bishop Carlassare told ACI Africa during the July 13 interview. 

He added about the July 9-18 meeting of Catholic Bishops, “I think I am learning much from the experiences in other countries that are members of AMECEA and are ahead of us in South Sudan as for commitment to save our common earth.”

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.