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In Q&A, Bishop-elect in South Sudan Shares about Planned Episcopal Ordination

Bishop-elect Christian Carlassare standing amidst some of the members of the Legion of Mary in South Sudan's Malakal Diocese on 19 March 2021.

Ahead of his episcopal ordination in May, the Bishop-elect for South Sudan’s Diocese of Rumbek, Fr. Christian Carlassare, has shared with ACI Africa about the event of his ordination as a Bishop, including the significance of the proposed date and links with his predecessor, Bishop Caesar Mazzolari who passed on in July 2011.

In the Question and Answer (Q&A) session with ACI Africa, the Italian-born Comboni Missionary who was appointed March 8 asks the people of God in Rumbek Diocese to “pray that the grace of God will be abundant upon me and upon all ministers and pastoral agents of the Diocese.”

“I am delighted that people do not judge me by the color of my skin but by the content of my character,” the Bishop-elect says, adding, “The choice of the Pope for a so-young person to be a Bishop of the Catholic Church fills me with gratitude, sense of responsibility, and pride for our Church.”

ACI Africa: When is your episcopal ordination expected to place?

Bishop-elect: I have actually proposed the Sunday of Pentecost (May 23, 2021) because I found that it is a very meaningful occasion to be ordained a Bishop. Lately, the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sudan and South Sudan confirmed that date. And lately, the Apostolic Nuncio has highlighted the special attention of Pope Francis about this episcopal ordination event, shown in sending Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State as the main consecrator. The Holy Father is committed to the peace process in South Sudan.

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ACI Africa: What motivated you to settle for Pentecost Sunday that commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles of Jesus?

Bishop-elect: The first reason is that I deeply feel the need of being strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit. The second reason is the missionary character of this feast as the disciples were sent to be apostles to all people, able to speak a language that was comprehensible to all, which was the language of love, care and concern especially for the poor and marginalized.

ACI Africa: What do you plan to do ahead of this important event of your ordination as a Bishop?

Bishop-elect: After these hectic days following the announcement of the day of my episcopal ordination, I desire to retire and do my spiritual exercises. I need to remain connected with the Lord who is the master and guide in the ministry. His presence gives me confidence. He is the only true and good shepherd whom we should imitate, loving as he loved.

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The other plan is that of being present and close to the people of God, striving to listen to them. Listening is a very important elements in the work of evangelization. I consider listening and identifying myself with the people to be critical in my ministry since evangelization starts from these simple elements.

ACI Africa: As you prepare for your ordination, what are your expectations about the people of God who will be under your pastoral in the Diocese of Rumbek?

Bishop-elect: First of all, they should pray that the grace of God will be abundant upon me and upon all ministers and pastoral agents of the diocese of Rumbek. Then, they should actively join in the ministry of evangelization, being in solidarity. There is more joy in giving than in receiving. It is when Christians offer their time, and take part in the Church’s activities, offering their expertise and services, that they come to belong to this great family. Therefore, as people welcome me as a member of this family of Rumbek Diocese, let them strengthen their conscience of being family.

ACI Africa: Since your appointment on March 8, what have you been hearing from the people of God in Rumbek Diocese whose Bishop died close to 10 years ago?

Bishop-elect: Many people have already contacted me expressing their joy to finally have a Bishop who comes from the land and background of late Bishop Cesar Mazzolari. Indeed, Mgrs. Cesar has been an inspiration for many Comboni Missionaries who opted to do missionary work in South Sudan rather than other countries of the world. I am delighted that people do not judge me by the color of my skin but by the content of my character, my being in solidarity and belonging now to this nation of South Sudan. It is my plan to travel to Rumbek on April 15 and get ready for the consecration together with the Christian community of Rumbek.

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ACI Africa: You will be turning 44 in October this year, becoming one of the youngest, if not the youngest Catholic Bishop in the world. What does it mean for you and your episcopal ministry?

Bishop-elect: I am indeed going to be one of the youngest Bishops. The choice of the Pope for a so-young person to be a Bishop of the Catholic Church fills me with gratitude, sense of responsibility, and pride for our Church that beside valuing the wisdom of the elders, also appreciate the energy and enthusiasm of young generations. I hope that my appointment as a young Bishop may encourage youth to cherish their Christian faith and take courageous Christian decisions in their life concerning education, working carrier, family life, and commitment in the Church. In fact, I reckon that my young age calls me to live totality: to be totally dedicated to God and to the people of God.

ACI Africa: Do you have any additional message ahead of your episcopal ordination?

Bishop-elect: During the spiritual exercises these days, I will ask the Lord to inspire my episcopal motto. I desire that it will take from the one of late Bishop Cesar Mazzolari that spoke of the cross, reconciliation, unity and peace. As I prepare for my episcopal ordination, let us live this time of grace reconciled with one another, working for peace, all united in the name of the Risen Lord.