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Recovering Catholic Bishop-elect Offering Pain for Purification of South Sudanese Diocese

Msgr. Christian Carlassare currently in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi for specialized treatment/ Credit: ACI Africa

The Catholic Bishop-elect for Rumbek Diocese who is nursing gunshot injuries at a hospital in Kenya says that he is offering his pain for the purification of the South Sudanese Diocese, which he is expected to shepherd.

In a video recording by ACI Africa, Msgr. Christian Carlassare says that he is imploring God for an end to “violence, division, (and) selfish desires” among the people of God in Rumbek.

From the hospital bed, Msgr. Carlassare says, “I bend low in front of God to intercede for the Church of Rumbek. I pray for the conversion of sinners.”

“I offer the pain I'm going through so that the Lord, our God, may purify the church of Rumbek from all errors and things like these may happen no more; no room for violence, division, (and) selfish desires that come from the devil.”

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In the video recorded Monday, May 3, Msgr. Carlassare who was shot in both legs in the early hours of April 26 and airlifted to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi for specialized treatment offers himself as a sign for a new beginning when he will be able to walk again.

“Let me be a sign for all of you. As I will rise from this bed and walk again, let Rumbek also rise again, and walk the way of peace and unity,” the Italian-born member of the Comboni Missionaries says.

He says he accepted the Holy Father’s appointment because of his love for the South Sudanese mission, and intends to fulfill “with all my heart.”

“Pope Francis and the College of Bishops send me to you, people of Rumbek, for this mission: to make the Church one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic; and I will accomplish this mission with all my heart for the love of you, and the love of South Sudan,” Msgr. Carlassare who was appointed Bishop for Rumbek Diocese March 8 after nearly a decade without a Bishop says.

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He invites the people of God in Rumbek to be church guided by what Jesus Christ proclaimed, that is, “a church that is one which means united; that is holy, which means gospel like that make people to be holy; Catholic, which means that it embraces everyone no matter the clan, the tribe or the skin color; and apostolic, which means that it comes to us from Jesus through the Pope and the Bishops.”

Msgr. Carlassare was reportedly the main target of two gunmen who gained access to his room by shooting multiple bullets on his door at the Fathers’ residence at Holy Family Cathedral of Rumbek Diocese.

The 43-year-old Cleric who had been serving in South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese since he arrived in the East-Central African country in 2005 traveled to Rumbek Diocese April 15 following days of spiritual retreat in Juba.

His episcopal ordination that had been scheduled to take place on Pentecost Sunday, May 23 has been postponed to a later date that is yet to be determined.

In the ACI Africa video recording, Msgr. Carlassare cautions against false generalization saying, “I read titles such as “Rumbek shot the Bishop”, or internationally, “South Sudan shot the Bishop: Such a shame.”

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“It is not the people of South Sudan who shot me. It is not the Dinkas who shot me, neither the Agar,” he explains and adds that those who shot him “are a group of few people” deprived of “human values and they are a shame for their community.”

He reiterated, “Rumbek does not beat and kill Priests as it happened a few years ago; Rumbek does not mistreat Religious Brothers or Sisters. Rumbek does not abuse any person. This is what we want from Rumbek. The opposite should never happen again.”

Msgr. Carlassare goes on to “invite the community leaders and local chiefs to spot out violent members of their community and apply the customary laws, which do not tolerate violence, especially when it can be avoided.”

“Do not allow violent members to hold all the community hostage. Dinka culture has no room for violence. Violence is not part of any culture in the world,” he emphasizes in his ACI Africa video message.

He thanks “all Christians around the world that have been praying for me and are giving me so much courage and trust in the Lord.”

He acknowledges with appreciation the solidarity of his “elder brothers, the Bishops of Sudan and South Sudan, as they see that this attack to one member is the attack to the whole church.”

“I’m grateful for the sincere commitment of the government, from the Presidency to the authorities at the local level, to uphold the truth and take legal actions to correct the evil that has happened in Rumbek so that it may never happen again,” the Comboni Missionary says.

In an interview with ACI Africa May 3, Msgr. Carlassare said that although he has been in physical pain throughout the week, the messages of solidarity and friendship have offered him the needed solace.

“It has been a painful week because my legs have been in pain almost all the time. I went through three surgeries,” he said, adding that it has also been “a week in which I experienced the closeness of many people, especially the doctors, but also many South Sudanese and friends from all over the world that sent their sympathies and solidarity.”

The secret of his day-to-day living on a hospital bed for seven continuous days and counting, he said, “has been the Lord that has been present through the time I have been on this bed, to pray and to feel his presence; I realized that my life is in his hands, and whatever I will do in the future, will be for his good and this mission.”

“I accept also to live at this time in this bed, to wait, to be patient, to accept that healing takes time, both the healing of the body, and also the healing of the heart,” Msgr. Carlassare told ACI Africa, adding that it is for his healing and also that “Rumbek may take care of the wounds that are there to start the process of healing” that his episcopal ordination has been postponed.

In the May 3 interview, Msgr. Carlassare cautions the people of God in Rumbek against interpreting the postponement as “abandonment” and instead take it as “a time of preparation,” lived with hope, “looking at the Lord to understand the journey that He's asking us to walk through.”

“Certainly, we will be reunited and we will be reunited with purpose, without the confusion or doubt or fear that had been there the last weeks,” he said, reiterating his May 27 message in an ACI Africa video recording.

Speaking about the process of physical healing, Msgr. Carlassare said, “The doctors are very hopeful because they trust that the muscles that have been damaged may form again. Of course, they will need a long time of training so that they may reshape like they were before.”

“I am trustful that I may be able to walk like before. Maybe I will not be able to play football as I liked, but I will still walk,” the Bishop-elect for Rumbek Diocese told ACI Africa May 3.

He underscored the need for unity founded on reconciliation saying, “Let us be united in prayer, overcoming old grudges and violence that starts in our heart. Let us be understanding. Let us be good to one another. Let us really hold hand in hand overcoming the wounds and the difficulties that a conflict brought to South Sudan and created a culture of violence that has now to disappear.”