“Miraculous conversion”: Catholic Bishop in South Sudan Says Transfer to Newly Erected Diocese is Mission Accomplished

The outgoing Bishop of South Sudan’s Catholic Diocese of Rumbek has described his transfer to the country’s newly erected Catholic Diocese of Bentiu as a “mission accomplished”, noting that he leaves behind a very vibrant church community in Rumbek.

In a July 5 interview with ACI Africa following his July 3 transfer to the South Sudanese Episcopal See that was carved out from the Catholic Diocese of Malakal, Bishop  Christian Carlassare  expressed his gratitude to the people of God in Rumbek Diocese, saying that he had witnessed immense conversion among them.

Asked what memories he carries from Rumbek, Bishop Carlassare said, “I am grateful to the people of God in Rumbek because I saw miracles among them. They have been very resilient to keep their faith in an institution that had partly lost the vision.”

According to him, the people in Rumbek “did not own their Church” but now they do.

Bishop Carlassare, who started his Episcopal Ministry in March 2022 in the South Sudanese Diocese that had been vacant since July 2011 following the sudden death of the then Local Ordinary, Bishop Caesar Mazzolari, acknowledged the dedication of the Clergy, and women and men Religious during his time as Bishop of Rumbek.


He added, “Among the lay people, I must credit the commitment of some Catechists, especially those in Tonj area, and women, so strong and courageous. They carried pain and suffering to nurture life.”

“I felt like I belonged with the people, and we bonded together in a Church that became a family community,” the Italian-born member of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (MCCJ), who had been ministering in Malakal Diocese since his arrival in the country in 2005 said.

His initial days in Rumbek Diocese following his Episcopal appointment in March 2021 were troubled after he was  shot in both legs on 26 April 2021, some 11 days after arriving in Rumbek.

“The environment and condition of work changed so fast that it was like an explosion of vitality and creativity. A miraculous conversion. People that are often portrayed as strong and proud, became so gentle and kind,” Bishop Carlassare shared.

He said he considered his mission in the Diocese of Rumbek accomplished, expressing joy that the people had laid ground for “change” in the leadership of the South Sudanese Diocese.

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“My departure looks like a defeat. It is not like that,” Bishop Carlassare said, and added, “I believe we can rather say ‘mission accomplished’. Rumbek is ready to have a new Bishop because now the environment is positive and can carry a change.”

The MCCJ member, who has cautioned the people of God in Rumbek against “any spirit of competition or disunity” in the process of choosing his successor has appealed to them to “accompany the process in prayer ... fostering a positive environment of discernment and cooperation, and allowing the Spirit of God to work.”

“I believe, this is a time of grace for Rumbek,” he said in his July 3 letter shortly after the Holy See Press office published his transfer and appointment as pioneer Bishop of Bentiu Diocese.

He added, “The late catechist Samuel Deng Dut called me War at my first arrival, which means change. But change cannot be prerogative of only one person. It is finally the fruit of a communitarian conversion. Rumbek has to be the main actor of that change that we believe in.”

In the July 5 interview with ACI Africa, Bishop Carlassare said he has had many memorable experiences in South Sudan, especially during his tenure as Bishop of Rumbek.


His most memorable experience include ordinations in the Diocese, as well multiple pilgrimages in the company of various church groups in the Diocese.

“I must mention some unforgettable visits to parishes in remote areas such as Tonj North, Tonj East and Rumbek North, the nine-day peace pilgrimage to Juba with about 82 youth and the latest seven-day pilgrimage to Tonj with over 90 youths,” he said, recalling the 125-kilometer peace pilgrimage to Tonj from Rumbek, and the February 2023 ”walking for peace” pilgrimage to Juba to participate in the first-ever Papal visit to South Sudan.

He also reflected on the ordinations he presided over, terming them as “so touching” for a Bishop.

In the Diocese of Rumbek, Bishop Carlassare has also blessed two new Churches in Thon-aduel and Cueibet, he told ACI Africa during the July 5 interview in which he also reflected on South Sudan’s general elections scheduled for December this year after the country’s Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU) that was was formed in February 2020 agreed with the opposition to reschedule the early 2023 polls.

“It is indeed a delicate process. And South Sudan has to embrace it and take courageous steps to prepare for it and create the conditions for free and peaceful elections,” he said, echoing the appeal of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC).

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Meanwhile, in a heartfelt poem, the Undersecretary of South Sudan’s National Ministry of Youth and Sports, Deborah Akech Kuocnin, has paid tribute to Bishop Carlassare and wished him well in his new Episcopal Ministry.

In the poem, the Juba-based government official, who hails from Rumbek Diocese describes Bishop Carlassare as having been “a guiding flame” and “source of light” during his tenure as Bishop of Rumbek.

Here is the full text Deborah’s poem.

 To Bishop Christian Carlassare,

Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek and Bishop of Bentiu Diocese

In lands where sun and hardship blend,

Where rivers part and forests bend,

With heart so pure, a shepherd strong,

For two years, you’ve guided us through right and wrong.

Rumbek has known both joy and pain,

With laughter sweet and sorrow's strain,

You shared in both, from dawn till night,

A guiding flame, a source of light.

 In this short period, your hands have built, your voice has soothed,

Where broken spirits once were bruised,

You brought us peace, you showed the way,

With every prayer, with every day.

Now Bentiu calls, a new dawn breaks,

Another flock your presence takes,

New fields to (plough), new seeds to sow,

With hope and love, through highs and lows.

 Though hearts in Rumbek heavy feel,

This parting path, this bittersweet deal,

We send you forth with blessings true,

Our prayers, our love, will follow you.

For in our hearts, you will stay,

In every prayer, in every praise,

A chapter ends, yet starts anew,

May God's great grace encircle you.

 So, go in peace, dear Bishop Christian 

For though you leave, you still are near,

In faith and spirit, always close,

Our guiding star, our loving boast.

You are still our shepherd, Our Apostolic Administrator. 

And that’s a consoler 

By: Deborah Akech Kuocnin

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.