Catholic Priest Suspect in Bishop-elect Shooting in South Sudan Says “not party” to Plot

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

The Catholic Priest suspected to have been involved in the plans to shoot the Bishop-elect of South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese has denied the claims, saying he was “not party” to the plot.

Appearing before the judge at the High Court in Juba Monday, February 21, Fr. John Mathiang said in reference to Mons. Christian Carlassare who was shot in both legs in April last year, “I am not party to the shooting of Bishop-elect.”

In a Catholic Radio Network (CRN) report about the ongoing case that was first mentioned on January 26, Fr. Mathiang told the court that he was woken up “by gunshots on that fateful night” of 26 April 2021 “only to find that (we were) under attack.”

The member of the Clergy of Rumbek Diocese further said that he, alongside Fr. Andrea Osman Okello, “came to the rescue of the wounded Bishop-elect.”

Testifying against a witness who, during the February 18 hearing, claimed that the Catholic Priest suspect had lobbiedfor the Bishop's position in Rumbek”, Fr. Mathiang said that he was not opposed to the appointment of Mons. Carlassare as Bishop for the South Sudanese Diocese.


Mons. Carlassare, a member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ), was appointed Bishop for Rumbek Diocese on 8 March 2021. 

Rumbek Diocese became vacant in July 2011 following the sudden death of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari, a Comboni Missionary, after collapsing during the celebration of Holy Eucharist on the morning of 16 July 2011.

Fr. Fernando Colombo, a confrere of the late Bishop, 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. 

At the time of his appointment, Mons. Carlassare had been serving in South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese since he arrived in the East-Central African country in 2005.

He traveled to Rumbek Diocese on 15 April 2021 following days of spiritual retreat in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. His Episcopal Ordination had been scheduled to take place on Pentecost Sunday, 23 May 2021.

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

Bishop Remijio was appointed Apostolic Administrator on 5 May 2021 with the mandate to “temporarily govern Rumbek Diocese until the Bishop elect, the Most Reverend Christian Carlassare is healed, ordained and takes over the governance of that Diocese.”

Last October, the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan announced that the Episcopal Ordination of the Mons. Carlassare had “been postponed to 2022, at a date still to be determined.”

In his 30 October 2021 letter addressed to Local Ordinaries and Apostolic Administrators in Sudan and South Sudan, Archbishop Hubertus van Megen commended “the Bishop-elect and the Diocese of Rumbek to your fervent prayers.”

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.