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Pope Francis Praying for Catholic Bishop-elect Shot in South Sudan

Loreto Sisters in South Sudan visit Bishop-elect Msgr. Christian Carlassare after the April 26 attack. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Pope Francis is praying for Msgr. Christian Carlassare, the Bishop-elect of South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese, who was shot in both legs in the early hours of Monday, April 26.

In a Tuesday, April 27 statement attributed to the Director of the Vatican’s Press Office, Matteo Bruni, “Pope Francis was aware of the shooting and praying for Fr. Carlassare and the people of South Sudan.”

Msgr. Carlassare who is currently in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi for specialized treatment was reportedly the main target of two armed men who gained access to his room by shooting multiple bullets on his door.

The Italian-born Comboni Missionary received initial treatment at the health facility under the auspices of Doctors with Africa CUAMM in Rumbek. 

Catholic Bishops in South Sudan have condemned the attack on Msgr. Carlassare who was appointed Bishop for Rumbek Diocese March 8.

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“We strongly condemn this act of malice and barbarism and ask all of us to hold on together during this difficult moment of a challenge as we uphold those values that hold Christians during troubles; among them love, solidarity, care, unity, forgiveness, and patience,” Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio Diocese says in a message published by Ruru Gene newsletter of the South Sudanese Diocese.

On behalf of the people of God under his pastoral care and on his own behalf, Bishop Hiiboro expresses his “sincere closeness and solidarity with the Bishop-elect.”

“I'm extremely saddened, shocked, and humiliated by this act on the life of this innocent humble man of God; a missionary of zeal, a missionary who loves his people,” Bishop Hiiboro says in the message issued Tuesday, April 27.

The shooting is “not an attack only on the personal life of the Bishop-elect of Rumbek, but rather a direct attack on people of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek,” the Sudanese Bishop says.

The shooting is also “a direct attack on the Mother Church in South Sudan; it is a direct attack on the Catholic Church as an institution and an attack on the Republic of South Sudan,” he further says.

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“As a church and as a Diocese, we are on our knees praying for the quick recovery of Msgr. Christian, the Bishop-elect of Rumbek Diocese; we pray for his quick healing and strength; we pray that his family may be consoled and strengthened during this difficult moment,” Bishop Hiiboro implores.

He goes on to assure Msgr. Carlassare’s compatriots that what happened “was not a doing of the country, a doing of everybody but that particular individuals have caused this and that the justice of our Lord may prevail.”

At least five sources in Rumbek have told ACI Africa that three members of the Clergy of Rumbek Diocese are among those arrested in connection with the April 26 shooting.

Speaking to ACI Africa April 26 on condition of anonymity, one of the sources said that the security officials handling the case in South Sudan’s Lakes State are following leads from “a cell phone” found at the scene of the crime alongside the phone of one of the Catholic Clerics, which the security officers confiscated.

Among those arrested following the shooting are members of the Clergy and “other prominent lay personalities in the Diocese of Rumbek,” the source disclosed, adding that 12 people are being linked to the “physical evidence of the cell phone found where the Bishop-elect was shot.”

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The arrests follow the directive from the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, for “an expeditious investigation” to identify, apprehend, and prosecute the perpetrators of “this heinous crime.”

In his statement issued April 26, President Kiir says he “learned with dismay the unfortunate incident that involved the Rt Rev. Christian Carlassare, Bishop-elect of Rumbek Diocese, who was shot last night by the unidentified gunmen.”

In his April 27 statement, Bishop Hiiboro challenges South Sudanese to see the attack “as an opportunity to reorganize ourselves as a nation to see how safe we can keep our people and take care of them as well as respond to those things that affect life in a gentle way and within rule of law and respect for human life.”

“I ask the whole Diocese of Tombura-Yambio to pray for Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Rumbek for quick healing and also pray in a special way for the Christian community and the people of Rumbek, may God unite and strengthen them during this trying moment,” the 57-year-old Bishop says.

Addressing himself to missionaries serving in South Sudan, the Local Ordinary of Tombura-Yambio says, “We all love you and what has happened is not something we have to call an attack on all the missionaries; the church here has been born and nurtured due to the sacrifices of many of your brothers and sisters and we thank you and them all.”

“As your Bishops, we will continue to forge our unity especially during this moment where the Lord’s kindness to us is being manifest as He has added more shepherds to our numbers so that we can prevail against evil by doing the good things, by doing the right things,” Bishop Hiiboro says.

He implores, “We pray through St. Daniel Comboni and through St. Josephine Bakhita that they may intercede to God for quick healing and relief for Bishop-Elect Msgr. Christian.”

Msgr. Carlassare had been serving in South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese since he arrived in the East-Central African country in 2005.

He traveled to Rumbek Diocese April 15 following days of spiritual retreat in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. His episcopal ordination was scheduled to take place on Pentecost Sunday, May 23.

As he left Rumbek for Nairobi, the Bishop-elect said he had forgiven his attackers and appealed for prayers.

“Pray for me and let’s all pray for the Diocese of Rumbek that God may have mercy on us and receive His graces,” Msgr. Calassare implored and added, “We also need to forgive those who committed this kind of action.”

“Let us be united in prayer, let us be good Christians and trust the Lord and that the Lord may do something good. I thank the doctors, Priests and people of the Church for being with me during this moment of suffering from the night till now,” the Bishop-elect who will turn 44 in October further said.

He has also reassured his Comboni Missionary confreres that he is well, inviting them “to pray especially for the people of Rumbek who – in his words – ‘are suffering more than him’ (and) that he forgives his assailants.”