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Case of Bishop-elect's Shooting in South Sudan Mentioned in Court, Adjourned to Next Week

Mons. Christian Carlassare, MCCJ, Bishop-elect for Rumbek Diocese, South Sudan. Credit: Fondazione CESAR

The case of the shooting of the Bishop-elect for South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese was mentioned in court on Wednesday, January 26, and adjourned to next week, multiple sources in country’s capital city, Juba, confirmed to ACI Africa.

“The case was mentioned in the High Court in Juba earlier today; it was adjourned to next week, February,” a source told ACI Africa in reference to the case of the shooting of Mons. Christian Carlassare in April last year.

In a January 26 report by the Catholic Radio Network (CRN), the case that was adjourned to February 3 involves six suspects.

“Malith Jok Thiang Wundit, defense lawyer of six suspects on the attempted murder, said the first session today, Wednesday was meant for bringing the accused from the security office to Juba Central Prison so that the court hearings can proceed normally,” CRN has reported.

Mons. Carlassare was shot in both legs on April 26 last year. He received initial treatment at the health facility under the auspices of Doctors with Africa CUAMM in Rumbek and later airlifted to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, where he was admitted at The Nairobi Hospital.

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In an ACI Africa video recording from his hospital bed on April 27, the member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) described the shooting as life-threatening but called for reconciliation and “justice with the same heart of God” among the people of God in Rumbek Diocese.

In June last year, police in South Sudan’s Lakes State arrested the second of “the potential suspects” directly involved in the shooting of the Bishop-elect.

The suspect who was reportedly arrested on 11 June 2021 brought the number of those detained following the April 26 early morning shooting to six individuals, including Fr. John Mathiang who had been at the helm of Rumbek Diocese as Diocesan Coordinator since 27 December 2013. 

Before his Episcopal appointment on 8 March 2021, Mons. Carlassare had ministered in South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese since his arrival in the country in 2005.

His episcopal ordination had been scheduled to take place on Pentecost Sunday, 23 May 2021.

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In an interview with ACI Africa a day after he had been shot, Mons. Carlassare recalled advocating for “forgiveness that is not just being naïve”.

The Bishop-elect “called to the government and the community and all the people of Rumbek asking for forgiveness: to forgive those that committed this act, forgiveness that is not just being naive and leaving aside errors but correct errors not with violence, but with dialogue and forgiveness," he said during the 27 April 2021 interview. 

He added, "I feel that the community of Rumbek needs much forgiveness to be able to dialogue and to come together.”

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Matthew Remijio of South Sudan’s Wau Diocese as the Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek Diocese on 5 May 2021 with the mandate to temporarily govern the Diocese until the Bishop-elect is “healed, ordained and takes over the governance of that Diocese.”

Late Sr. Veronica Rackova. Credit: Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS). Credit: Courtesy Photo

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Meanwhile, the second court hearing of the case of Sr. Veronika Rackova, the member of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS) from Slovakia who was shot dead in 2016, has been adjourned to February 16. 

The first court hearing for late Sr. Rackova started on January 10 at South Sudan’s High Court in Juba, presided over by Judge Sumeiya Salah.

For the second court hearing, a January 26 CRN report indicates that “the mobility to bring the alleged perpetrators from Yei was not done on time which made it unsuccessful for the suspects to appear before the court.”

The late Sr. Rackova who had pioneered the SSpS mission in Yei Diocese in South Sudan since 2010 died at Kenya’s Nairobi Hospital on 20 May 2016 after she was attacked and shot several times by a group of soldiers.

Sr. Rackova succumbed to gunshot wounds on her hip and abdomen that she suffered when the St. Bakhita Health Center Ambulance she was driving came under attack from the armed soldiers.

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The medical doctor with specialization in tropical diseases was returning to the convent after having taken a patient to Harvest Hospital in Yei when the 15 May 2016 midnight attack happened.

After undergoing two surgeries at the Hospital for Women and Children in Yei, the missionary Sister who was 58 at the time was airlifted to Nairobi the following day for specialized treatment where she died.

Last year, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Sr. Rackova’s death, the Catholic Bishop of Yei Diocese underscored the need for justice for the Catholic Nun.

“We are happy with lawyers who are trying their best (in) our civil court here in Yei to see where the witnesses may be and those others who might have pointed the gun at Sister, to the point of even killing her,” Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe was quoted as saying 20 May 2021.

The Church, Bishop Lodu Tombe added, “cannot allow injustice to continue to destroy the world and so the case of Sister Veronica which is ongoing, is going too long but legal procedures are like that and we are to follow it until we get justice before the court.”

The South Sudanese Bishop further said, “We have forgiven those who have killed the Sister but at the same time we are pursuing justice; forgiveness with justice go together; you forgive but you demand justice.”