“Powerful event”: Catholic Bishop in South Sudan on Ecumenical Visit in Lenten Message

Bishop Christian Carlassare applying ashes on the youngest baby in the church. Credit: Fr. Wanyonyi Eric Simiyu, S.J.

The ecumenical visit to South Sudan that was undertaken by Pope Francis alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields was “powerful event”, the Catholic Bishop of South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese has said in his Lenten Pastoral Letter.

In the letter dated February 25, Bishop Christian Carlassare recalls the church leaders' February 3-5 visit that took place under the theme, “I pray that all may be one”.

“The visit of the Holy Father Pope Francis to South Sudan has been a powerful event,” Bishop Carlassare says in his Lenten Pastoral Letter shared with ACI Africa, and adds that the ecumenical visit “encourages us to take new paths towards reconciliation and peace.”

He recalls the message of the Holy Father during his February 4 meeting with Bishops,  Priests, Deacons, Consecrated Persons and Seminarians, and says, “The Holy Father referred to the example of Moses and indicated three important aspects of our mission: Meekness, intercession and prayer.”

Credit: Fr. Wanyonyi Eric Simiyu, S.J.


“The Holy Father observed that, deep down, we – priests, deacons, seminarians, consecrated men and women, and lay pastoral agents – can think that we are at the center of everything, that we can rely almost exclusively on our own talents and abilities,” the Local Ordinary of Rumbek Diocese recalls the Holy Father saying at St. Theresa’s Cathedral of Juba Archdiocese. 

The member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) adds, “As a Church, we think we can find an answer to people’s suffering and needs through human resources, like money, cunning or power.  Instead, everything we accomplish comes from God: He is the Lord, and we are called to be docile instruments in his hands.”

“The primacy is not ours; the primacy is God’s: entrusting ourselves to His word before we start using our own words, meekly accepting His initiative before we get caught up in our personal and ecclesial projects,” Bishop Carlassare says.

He continues, “By allowing ourselves, in meekness, to be shaped by the Lord, we experience renewal in our ministry. In the presence of the Good Shepherd, we realize that we are not tribal chieftains, but compassionate and merciful shepherds; not overlords, but servants who stoop to wash the feet of our brothers and sisters; we are not a worldly agency that administers earthly goods, but the community of God’s children.”

Credit: Fr. Wanyonyi Eric Simiyu, S.J.

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Reflecting on the nine-day “walking for peace” pilgrimage organized by his Episcopal See, Bishop Carlassare says,I carry in my heart the beautiful experience of togetherness and fraternity the youth experience during our pilgrimage from Rumbek to Juba.”

“We set off as a group of individuals coming from different Parishes or learning institutions and we didn’t know much of each other,” the Local Ordinary of Rumbek Diocese says, and further recalls, “As days went on we came closer to each other, we bonded together so much that we can say, when we reached Juba, we were not the same as when we started.”

“In our journey of faith, we are aiming at a Church that may experience fraternity and foster our common belonging to each other and to Christ Jesus,” the Italian-born Catholic Bishop who has ministered in South Sudan since 2005 says in his Lenten Pastoral Letter shared with ACI Africa.

Credit: Fr. Wanyonyi Eric Simiyu, S.J.

He goes on to advocate for unity and the spirit of service among the people of God under pastoral care in the light of the Holy Father’s message during the ecumenical visit.


“I invite all Christians to live our present time with gratitude, hope, and communion,” Bishop Carlassare says, and appeals, “We must bond together in a comm-unity of faith and charity. Only in this way can we be a prophetic presence for others.”

He continues, “Togetherness invites us to reflect upon the identity of each person which is also made up of the collective identity of so many people who came to meet and impact their life.”

“There is no person that can stand alone. We should all stand together and contribute to the betterment or decline of our community and culture,” the Local Ordinary of Rumbek Diocese further says, and adds, “We are coming together in the Church, the family of God because of the love of Christ.”

The Catholic Church leader who has been at the helm of Rumbek Diocese since his Episcopal Consecration on 25 March 2022 continues, “Are we moved by his love, ready to journey and open a new path, a new way of doing things to renew our culture and society.”

“We cannot attain anything good unless we have set off to walk the narrow path and carried the cross altogether,” he says, and adds, “Maybe it’s a dream but it’s important to dream together; by ourselves, we risk seeing things that are not there.”

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Bishop Carlassare underscores the need for togetherness, saying, “Unity is a gift and responsibility that the body will do it for us unless we commit ourselves to protect the bond of fraternity that we have in Christ.”

“Any division, discord or misunderstanding doesn’t come from God but from our worldly mentality because love is an expression of tolerance which is accepting and bearing with one another,” the 45-year-old Catholic Bishop says.

The attitude of love, he adds, “makes the Church an open welcoming space, a place where there is no room for fanaticism and partisan grouping which are by the nature intolerant and restless.” 

“The community is instead the place of impartiality and openness in the name of love,” the member of the Comboni Missionary says in his February 25 Lenten Pastoral Letter titled, “Walking Together as a Family of God”.

He continues, “In the broken society, family can heal the wound of disunity, hatred and violence. Family ties are indeed very strong in our cultural context although it may divide people of different families, clans or tribes.”

“How beautiful it is when we understand ourselves as part of a greater family which doesn’t know discrimination or exclusion and where all people can feel at home,” Bishop Carlassare says.

Credit: Fr. Wanyonyi Eric Simiyu, S.J.

He adds, “The Church is called to be an expression of inclusiveness and communion by producing that transformation within ourselves, our social interaction, and our environment.”

Bishop Carlassare  calls on the people of God in his Episcopal See to take into account deliberations during the February 20-26 Diocesan Pastoral Assembly.

He says, “Take up the action plan of the Diocesan pastoral assembly among the many good things they are doing.”

“Let’s focus on the priorities that have been highlighted and the resolutions that are proposed,” he says in his February 25 Lenten Pastoral Letter shared with ACI Africa.

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