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Bishop-elect of South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese Says His Appointment Shows “God of surprises"

Bishop-elect for South Sudan's Rumbek Diocese, Comboni Missionary Christian Carlassare, appointed 8 March 2021

The Bishop-elect for the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek (DoR) in South Sudan that has been vacant for almost a decade has described his Monday, March 8 episcopal appointment as an illustration of “the God of surprises.”

In a message to ACI Africa shortly after his appointment was made public, Fr. Christian Carlassare said he welcomed his episcopal appointment in a “spirit of faith” even though it was not among his expectations.

“God is the God of surprises. And his surprises, even though challenging, carry always a blessing,” the Bishop-elect told ACI Africa March 8.

The Italian-born member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) added, “I did not expect this appointment, but I welcome it with spirit of faith and availability. May the loving plan of God for the Church of Rumbek and South Sudan be accomplished.”

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“I am grateful to Pope Francis and the Church for the love and trust that have shown by calling me to the episcopal ministry and appointing me to be the Bishop of Rumbek,” the 44-year-old Comboni Missionary who, until his appointment, has been the Vicar General of South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese, further said.

Writing on behalf of the Nairobi-based representative of the Holy Father in South Sudan, Archbishop Bert van Megen, the Chargé d’Affaires at the South Sudan Nunciature, Mons. Mark Kadima said, “On behalf of the Apostolic Nuncio, I wish to announce that the Holy Father, Pope Francis has today, 8 March 2021, appointed Rev. Fr. Christian Carlassare, MCCJ, as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Rumbek.”

“United with all of you, we wish to thank Rev. Fr. John Mathiang for his dedicated service to the Diocese of Rumbek, which he has governed in the capacity of the Diocesan Coordinator for the last eight years,” Mons. Kadima stated in his letter announcing the appointment that was also published by the Holy See Press Office March 8.

The South Sudanese Diocese became vacant in July 2011 following the sudden death of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari. The Comboni Missionary Bishop collapsed during the celebration of Holy Eucharist on the morning of 16 July 2011, one week after South Sudan’s independence, and was confirmed dead at the Rumbek State Hospital that morning.

Fr. Fernando Colombo, a member of the Comboni Missionaries governed the Diocese as Diocesan Administrator until 27 December 2013, when Fernando Cardinal Filoni, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed Fr. Mathiang Diocesan Coordinator.

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In his message to ACI Africa, Bishop-elect Carlassare acknowledged with appreciation the leadership of Fr. Mathiang alongside members of the Clergy ministering in the Diocese, members of various Religious Orders, as well as the people of God in DoR.

“My thought goes to all the people of the diocese and their desire to encounter Christ in the Church,” he said and added, “My obligation goes to all priests that are serving in the diocese, in particular Fr. John Mathiang for his commitment to lead the Diocese in the past years as Diocesan Coordinator.”

“My appreciation goes to all the religious institutes and communities of men and women that enrich the Diocese with their charisms, among them I show special gratitude to my confreres, the Comboni Missionaries and Sisters, especially those we have shared in the ministry,” the native of Italy’s Diocese of Padua told ACI Africa.

He recognized the commitment of Laity serving in Rumbek Diocese saying, “I also acknowledge the commitment of many lay people, whether native from Rumbek or from other places and countries, those who work in the offices and institutions of the Diocese, and committed Christians such as catechists, members of church councils, associations, men and women, youth and elders who form and build up this family of God.”

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“I want to express my readiness to join the Diocese of Rumbek entering in the journey that you have been doing so far and offering my humble self,” the Bishop-elect said, addressing himself to all those offering services to the people of God in Rumbek Diocese.

At this moment, he added, “what I ask you more is for your prayer, with the trust that our Lord who started this good work will assist me with his grace and bring it to completion.”

The alumnus of the Rome-based Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Urbaniana University where he obtained his Baccalaureates in Theology and Missiology respectively recalled Bishop Mazzolari as one who “gave his life to the people of Rumbek.”

“I also recall the person of the late bishop Caesar Mazzolari who gave his life to the people of Rumbek with the spirit of a good shepherd,” the Bishop-elect who was ordained a Priest in September 2004 said.

He went on to thank the people of God in South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese among whom he has been ministering since he arrived in South Sudan in 2005 saying, “I am also indebted with the Diocese of Malakal for the spirit of communion, support and kindness: May God reward you.”

Meanwhile, Fr. Mathiang has expressed his best wishes to the Bishop-elect, promising collaboration.

In an interview with ACI Africa March 8, the South Sudanese Cleric said in reference to the Bishop-elect Carlassare, “The message is just wishing him the best and then we promise collaboration and a good progress, whatever we have been doing he comes and joins us and we push ahead.”

In his service as Diocesan Coordinator for eight years, Fr. Mathiang told ACI Africa he has learned love, and collaboration from the people of God in DoR as well as the “spirit of hard work and interest in development that they have been expressing to me and to the Church for all the things done over the years.”

The love, collaboration and hard work needs to continue, the member of the Clergy of Rumbek Diocese said, adding, “It's not all about me, it's about Jesus Christ and about the Church. The people have to continue that spirit; what we need is the progress ahead.”