Suspect Says Shooting of South Sudan Bishop-elect a Plot “to scare him away” and Relocate

Photo of the Six Accused suspect and their defense lawyers during the court hearing Wednesday, 9 February 2022. Credit: Catholic Radio Network (CRN)

The shooting of the Bishop-elect for the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek in South Sudan last year was part of a plot to “scare him away” from the Episcopal See to which he had been appointed, and to have him abandon his mission in the Diocese, a suspect has told the High Court in Juba. 

In a media report following the Wednesday, February 23 hearing of the ongoing case of the shooting of Mons. Christian Carlassare that occurred on 26 April 2021, Laat Makur Agok, identified as the last of the six suspects, said that one of the co-accused, a Catholic Priest, masterminded the plot.

“Fr. John Mathiang convened multiple meetings with the assailants on how they could attack the Bishop-elect in order to scare him away and he (Fr. Mathiang) could take over the helm of the Diocese of Rumbek,” Juba Monitor, a Juba-based media entity, has quoted Mr. Makur as saying. 

In the report, Mr. Makur recalled the events following the news of the appointment of Mons. Carlassare that culminated in his being shot in both legs.

“I came to him in the Church Compound at 5:30 PM and we had a chat. He told me the breaking news that, it is the white man who is brought as a Bishop-elect,” Mr. Makur told judge Alexander Subek Sebur in reference to Fr. Mathiang.


According to Mr. Makur, Fr. Mathiang claimed that Jonah Marier Mabeny, one of the witnesses in the ongoing case, had been behind the appointment of “the white man” as the Local Ordinary of the South Sudanese Diocese. 

“We held several meetings with him (Fr. Mathiang) but the last meeting he told me that we don't need this white man and we need to scare him away by gun,” the suspect has been quoted as saying.

According to Mr. Makur, in masterminding the attack, Fr. Mathiang convened “five meetings with them on how they could attack Bishop-elect in order to scare him away and he (Fr. Mathiang) could take over the helm of the Diocese of Rumbek,” Juba Monitor has reported.

In the meetings he convened, the suspect said, Fr. Mathiang had explained that in the Catholic Church, when your life is under threat, “you are immediately taken to another place without coming back there.”

The South Sudanese Priest shared about a “successful cold-blooded plot planned against a certain Priest working for Good News Radio by then and (who remains) in Nairobi,” Mr. Makur said about Fr. Mathiang’s sharing in reference to the 2012 attack on the Founder and first Director of Good News Radio of Rumbek Diocese.

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“If there is a threat of gunshot from assailants, this white man will not stay here,” the suspect said February 23, recalling the words of Fr. Mathiang.

Mr. Makur told the court that when he expressed his concerns about the plot, including possible arrests, Fr. Mathiang had said, “If you fear the government, I will defend you and I will be answerable.” 

The case has been adjourned to March 2.

Testifying in court on February 21, Fr. Mathiang denied claims that he was part of the plot to shoot the Bishop-elect.

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.”


Another witness also testified that three suspects in the case were closely related to Fr. Mathiang.

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

The South Sudanese 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; he was confirmed dead at Rumbek Hospital that morning.

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.

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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.

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.”

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.