Peace Pilgrimage in South Sudanese Diocese Ends with Launch of Eucharistic Congress

Pilgrims who participated in the pilgrimage for peace. Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Catholic Diocese of Rumbek

South Sudan’s Catholic Diocese of Rumbek has launched a year-long Diocesan Eucharistic Congress with an invitation to communities in the East-Central African country that is reeling from decades of violence to embrace communal living.

In his homily on Sunday, January 14 which marked the end of a peace pilgrimage from Rumbek to Tonj, some 125 kilometers away, Bishop Christian Carlassare invited the people of God under his pastoral care to strive to see the presence of Jesus in each other, and in their communities as they join their brethren in the country and in Sudan in the binational Eucharistic Congress, aimed at fostering unity in the neighboring countries.

Bishop Carlassare invited his Diocesan family to reflect on the Eucharist as “not just that white host we receive during the Liturgy of the Eucharist or that which we expose during the adoration,” but “a call to something deeper, to live the mystery of the broken bread, a shared bread.”

The Eucharist, he said, “is a call to become a Eucharistic community.”

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Catholic Diocese of Rumbek


“In celebrating the Eucharistic Congress, let us open our hearts to Jesus who is present among us. Let us speak to Him; let us listen to His voice; let him touch our lives. Let what he says to us change our lives and our decisions,” Bishop Carlassare said.

The Italian-born member of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (MCCJ) challenged Catholics in the Diocese of Rumbek to reflect on their relationship with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

“Do we receive the Holy Eucharist?” he posed during the January 14 Holy Mass at Sacred Heart Tonj Catholic Parish of Rumbek Diocese, and continued, “Are we getting ready to receive it? Are we entering the Communion with Jesus in his life and what he did for us?”

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Catholic Diocese of Rumbek

“We must look at the Eucharist as Jesus Himself who became man, offering bread and wine as a sign of His life given to us as a nourishment for us and as a means of unity for the community. While receiving the same bread and wine we feel that we are one and we belong to one another,” Bishop Carlassare said, underscoring the theme of the binational Eucharistic Congress, “One body, one spirit in Christ”.

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He added, “We must ask ourselves ‘is Jesus present in our communities? Do we see Jesus present here now, or are we just making ourselves present while we remain blind to the divine presence of Jesus?”

The Catholic Church leader, who has been at the helm of Rumbek Diocese since his Episcopal Consecration on 25 March 2022 further challenged Christians in the country to stop offering animal sacrifices to God as “peace offerings”, noting that Jesus already offered Himself as the sacrificial lamb.

Credit: Sr. Rita Romany, Comboni Missionary Sisters/Rumbek Diocese

He said that some families in South Sudan still offer animal sacrifices and explained, “We believe God needs sacrifices of goats and cows from us, and it is not uncommon to see till now that we feel we need to get peace from God by sacrificing a cow to Him.”

Bishop Carlassare noted that while the practice shows the people’s deep religiosity, it is not Christianlike.


Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Catholic Diocese of Rumbek

“The fact that we feel that God needs us to shed the blood of a cow for Him shows the kind of god we believe in, a god that demands sacrifices from us, and so, a god that we fear,” the Italian-born Catholic Bishop, who started his Priestly ministry in South Sudan in the Catholic Diocese of Malakal in 2005 said.

He continued, “If we believe in a god like that, we still ask for lives from others and try to preserve our own lives by looking for help from God against others, rather than giving our lives for others.”

According to Bishop Carlassare, true sacrifice is giving up oneself to the service of others.

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Catholic Diocese of Rumbek

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“The Gospel reveals to us the true image of God. When we look at Jesus, we see God. a God that would include everyone, unite everyone rather than divide. Not a god asking for sacrifices but the God who offers Himself as the sacrifice, the lamb of God,” he said, and emphasized, “There is no need to offer cows to God when Jesus already offered Himself as a sacrifice.”

“It is when we give ourselves like Jesus gave himself that we can reconcile the world with God. It is not God who needs to reconcile with us. It is us to be reconciled with Him,” Bishop Carlassare said during the Eucharistic celebration that marked the seven-day peace pilgrimage that was organized under the theme, “Be Seeds of Hope”.

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Catholic Diocese of Rumbek

In a note that Bishop Carlassare shared with ACI Africa on Monday, January 15, he said that young people who participated in the pilgrimage had a close encounter with Jesus.

“The Lord accompanied us along the pilgrimage, and we met Him in the communities where we were welcomed,” he said, and added, “In the Eucharist Jesus is in our midst; He makes Himself bread for the journey to nourish us and to teach us to share with others what we have, who we are, our faith and hopes.”

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.