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Police in South Sudan Arrest “One of the potential suspects” in Bishop-elect's Shooting

Msgr. Christian Carlassare, currently recuperating at a Comboni community in Nairobi, Kenya after having been discharged from hospital on 17 May 2021. Credit: ACI Africa

Police in South Sudan’s Lakes State have arrested “one of the potential suspects” involved in the April shooting of the Bishop-elect of the country’s Rumbek Diocese, Msgr. Christian Carlassare.

According to Radio Miraya of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the suspect was arrested Friday, June 11, bringing the number of those detained following the April 26 early morning shooting to six individuals.

“Another suspect has been arrested in connection with the shooting of the Catholic Bishop in Rumbek, Lakes State in April,” Radio Miraya has reported.

The June 11 audio recording has Lakes State Police spokesperson, Elijia Mabor Makuac saying “the suspect was hiding in a cattle camp.”

“Through more initiative being inserted towards this case, relatives of the suspect were able to convince him to surrender and he’s currently under the control of security authorities in Lakes State,” the Police spokesperson explains.

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The man arrested is suspected to be one of the two gunmen who shot Msgr. Carlassare, the Italian-born Comboni Missionary Cleric who  was appointed Bishop for Rumbek Diocese on March 8 after nearly a decade without a Bishop.

“The government is not looking for anyone else in connection with the case. Investigations will continue this week and hopefully the case will be heard soon,” a source in Rumbek told ACI Africa, adding, “Six people are now detained in Rumbek prison, including Fr. (John) Mathiang.”

In April, three South Sudanese Catholic Clerics were among those detained following the shooting.

In an interview with ACI Africa, South Sudan’s Lakes State Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Head of Investigative and Security Committee, Hon. Mathiang Deng Monydit, said the three Priests were charged for “instigating” the two gunmen who shot Msgr. Carlassare.

Two members of the Clergy of Rumbek Diocese, Fr. Luka Dor and Deacon Stephen Mangar, were “conditionally” set free on May 14.

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“Some have been conditionally released for lack of concrete evidence against them,” a source in South Sudan’s Lakes State covered by Rumbek Diocese told ACI Africa, adding that their release from detention “doesn't mean that they are completely set free. They have been ordered to stay within the boundaries of Lakes State.”

“The rest who have been found to have strong evidence have been transferred to prison awaiting the beginning of case trial,” the source further said, further confirming that Fr. Mathiang who was at the helm of the Diocese since December 2013 had been “moved to prison with a few others.”

Msgr. Carlassare was shot in both legs during the early hours of April 26 when two armed men shot multiple bullets on his door, gaining access to his room in a block that houses Fathers serving at Holy Family Cathedral of the South Sudanese Diocese.

He received initial treatment at the health facility under the auspices of Doctors with Africa CUAMM in Rumbek and later airlifted to Kenya. He was admitted at The Nairobi Hospital.

Msgr. Carlassare who is currently recuperating at a Comboni community in Nairobi after having been discharged May 17 has called for reconciliation and justice inspired by the “heart of God.”

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In an ACI Africa video recording from his hospital bed at The Nairobi hospital a day after he had been attacked, the Comboni Missionary described the April 26 shooting experience as life-threatening and urged reconciliation and “justice with the same heart of God.”

Before his March 8 appointment, Msgr. Carlassare had been ministering in Malakal Diocese most of his 16-year Priestly service in South Sudan. He had arrived in Rumbek Diocese on April 15.

His episcopal ordination that had been scheduled to take place on Pentecost Sunday, May 23 has since been postponed.

On May 5, the Holy Father appointed Bishop Matthew Remijio of South Sudan’s Wau Diocese as the Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek Diocese, with the mandate to temporarily govern the Diocese until Msgr. Carlassare “is healed, ordained and takes over the governance of that Diocese, hopefully as soon as possible.”

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Rumbek Diocese became vacant on 16 July 2011 following the sudden death of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari, a member of the Comboni Missionaries.

Fr. Fernando Colombo, also 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.