A Suspect in South Sudan Bishop-elect’s Shooting Lobbied for “Bishop’s position”: Witness

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

A suspect in the shooting of Mons. Christian Carlassare, the Bishop-elect for the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek in South Sudan, lobbied to be appointed Bishop of the South Sudanese Episcopal See, a witness has told the court in Juba.

The witness who appeared before the judge during the Friday, February 18 court session said that one of the suspects, Fr. John Mathiang Machol “ordered” him to assist him draft a letter to the Vatican in 2016 in which the Catholic Priest was “lobbying for the Bishop's position in Rumbek.”

In a Catholic Radio Network (CRN) report about the ongoing case that was first mentioned on January 26 at the High Court in Juba, Jonah Marier Mabeny who is identified as the youth Coordinator of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek disclosed to Judge Alexander Subek Sebur that “Fr. Mathiang mobilized youth in September 2011 to support him to be the Bishop of Rumbek.”

Mr. Mabeny added, “Fr. Mathiang also threatened Fr. Andrea Osman Okello not to preach to the congregation that, don’t kill because of position.”

He also said that “Fr. Mathiang made several attempts to kill Fr. Don Bosco, former Director of Good News Radio.”


The next court session has been scheduled to take place on February 21. 

Mons. Carlassare who has since recovered was shot in both legs during the early hours of 26 April 2021. 

The Italian-born member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) 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.

Earlier this month, Justice Alexander Sebur Subek told journalists in Juba that one of the suspects whom he identified as “accused number five” had “confessed that he was the one who shot the Bishop.”

Last week, making reference to Fr. Mathiang, another witness said that three suspects in the case were closely related with one of their co-accused.

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The witness who expressed his familiarity with three suspects during the February 9 court session said that while one frequented the Fathers’ residence at Holy Family Cathedral Parish of Rumbek Diocese, the other two visited Fr. Mathiang “as friends and relatives do.”

“I know three of these six accused suspects; one used to drive Fr. Mathiang’s car in and out of the compound, and the other two (came) for visit(s) as friends and relatives do,” the witness, identified as Luka Dor Agor, said about suspects in the shooting of Mons. Carlassare.

In his testimony during the February 9 court session, Fr. Andrea recalled the physical looks of two gunmen who stormed the Fathers’ residence in search of the Bishop-elect saying, “One was tall and one was short and thin; both covered their faces with clothes and one was wearing army-like clothes.”

Rumbek Diocese became vacant in July 2011 following the sudden death of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari. The Comboni Missionary Bishop collapsed during the celebration of Holy Eucharist on the morning of 16 July 2011, one week after South Sudan’s independence. He was confirmed dead at Rumbek State Hospital that morning.

Fr. Fernando Colombo, a member of the Comboni Missionaries, governed the South Sudanese 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.


The Diocese of Rumbek is currently under the leadership of Bishop Matthew Remijio of South Sudan’s Wau Diocese.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.