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Catholic Bishops in Sudan, South Sudan Pray for “quick recovery” of Bishop-elect

The Bishop-elect for South Sudan’s Rumbek, Msgr. Christian Carlassare at the Nairobi Hospital where he is being treated for gunshot injuries in his legs. Credit: ACI Africa

Members of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) have, in a collective statement, expressed their spiritual closeness with Msgr. Christian Carlassare, the Bishop-elect for South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese who is nursing gunshot injuries after he was shot in both legs in the early hours of Monday, April 26.

“Our dear brother Christian, we stand by you and pray for your quick recovery for the Glory of the Good Shepherd,” the members of SCBC say in the statement dated April 26.

Msgr. Carlassare who is currently at The Nairobi hospital was reportedly the main target of two gunmen who gained access to his room by shooting multiple bullets on his door.

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

The member of the Comboni Missionaries who has been ministering in South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese since his arrival in the country in 2005 had arrived in Rumbek April 15 following his episcopal appointment on March 8.

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Describing the April 26 attack on Msgr. Carlassare as an attempt on the life of an “innocent servant and missionary who dedicates his entire talent in the service of the people of South Sudan,” the Catholic Church leaders in the two-nation conference say the attack “tarnishes and damages the image of our Church and the nation.”

“It is unfortunate that (this attack happened) when the Church in South Sudan and the Holy See are working tirelessly… seeking shepherds for the number of vacant sees in the country and getting one after ten years of vacancy an attempt is made to rid of the effort,” the members of SCBC say in the statement shared with ACI Africa.

They continue, “Ours as the Church is to strongly seek and demand justice and pray for those who do us harm! Condemnation breeds more hatred and harm.”

“We stand and pray for deep conversion of the hearts of the offenders. Hence, we call on all faithful in Sudan and South Sudan and of Rumbek, in particular, to stand firm and be strengthened with prayers for the quick recovery of our shepherd, Bishop-elect Christian,” SCBC members say in their April 26 collective statement.

They urge and passionately call on the government of South Sudan to “take serious steps to apprehend the perpetrators and have their way to justice.”

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“The regular statements uttered by our leaders brushing out shameful crimes committed on innocent people with the term of unidentified gunmen will never halt escalations of crimes in our country,” the Prelates note in their statement.

 

Various Catholic Bishops in Sudan and South Sudan have, in separate messages, condemned the attack on Msgr. Carlassare.

In an interview with ACI Africa April 26, Bishop Yunan Tombe Trille of Sudan’s El Obeid Diocese who doubles as SCBC President said that what happened to Msgr. Carlassare is a “very sad and unfortunate incident to happen in the Church and to the religious person who has just come into the Diocese.”

“After a long time, we have been waiting for a Bishop in the Diocese of Rumbek. It is very sad and we pray for a quick recovery and hope those who have done such a thing be apprehended and made accountable to their actions,” Bishop Trille told ACI Africa.

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He continued, “I know there are a lot of problems here and there in the country, but if leaders who are supposed to be the salt in the midst of what is happening in South Sudan are targeted, then we are dealing with a dry wood and wet together.”

On his part, the Catholic Bishop of Malakal Diocese described the attack on the Bishop-elect as part of the insecurity in the East-Central African country.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Bishop Stephen Nyodho said, “This is real insecurity because you cannot be targeted in your room, leave alone being in the compound or on the road. If somebody tries to kill you in your own room, where could you be secure, to bury ourselves in the tomb or where?”

“The security of everybody in South Sudan, not just the Church personnel should be paramount to the government; everybody should be secure in his own country and nobody should be afraid that something will happen to him or her,” he added during the April 26 interview.

He implored, “I pray for the people of Rumbek, to call God in their hearts, especially for the conversion especially for those who are doing these evil acts and for all the faithful that the Lord may give them strength.”

The Bishop of South Sudan’s Tombura-Yambio Diocese described the attack on Msgr. Carlassare as an “act of malice and barbarism.”

In his message published by Ruru Gene newsletter of the South Sudanese Diocese, Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala said, “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.”

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.”

Following the attack on the Bishop-elect, at least a dozen people, including three members of the Clergy of Rumbek Diocese, have  been arrested in connection with the April 26 early morning shooting. 

Speaking to ACI Africa on condition of anonymity, a source 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 Priests, which the security officers confiscated.

Besides the three Clerics, the security officers also arrested “other prominent lay personalities in the Diocese of Rumbek,” the source told ACI Africa April 26, adding that 12 people are being linked to the “physical evidence of the cell phone found where the Bishop-elect was shot.”

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 an ACI Africa video recording from his hospital bed at The Nairobi hospital Tuesday, April 27, Bishop-elect Msgr. Carlassare reassured the people of God in Rumbek that he is out of danger and that he plans to return  to the South Sudanese Diocese.

“I take the chance to greet all of you, my brothers and sisters, in Rumbek. I want you to be at peace to know that I’m well here in the hospital in Nairobi,” Msgr. Carlassare said, adding that he is receiving good medical care, and he is improving.