Testifying in court on February 21, Fr. Mathiang denied claims that he was part of the plot to shoot the Bishop-elect. He told the court that he was woken up “by gunshots on that fateful night” of 26 April 2021, and that he, alongside Fr. Andrea Osman Okello, “came to the rescue of the wounded Bishop-elect.”
Fr. Mathiang also testified against the witness who had claimed that he (Fr. Mathiang) had lobbied to become a Bishop, adding that he was not opposed to the appointment of Mons. Carlassare as Bishop for the South Sudanese Diocese.
On February 23, Laat Makur Agok, identified as the last of the six suspects, told the court in Juba that the shooting of Mons. Carlassare 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 Rumbek Diocese.
According to Mr. Makur, “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.”
“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,” Mr. Makur said, and recalled the Fr. Mathiang’s sharing about a “successful cold-blooded plot planned against a certain Priest working for Good News Radio by then and (who remains) in Nairobi.”
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In the Catholic Church, when your life is under threat, “you are immediately taken to another place without coming back there,” Mr. Makur said, recalling Fr. Mathiang’s alleged sharing in one of the five meetings he convened.
“If you fear the government, I will defend you and I will be answerable,” the sixth suspect told the court in Juba on February 23, quoting Fr. Mathiang as having said.
The case was adjourned to March 2.
In his February 22 letter, Bishop Remijio says that members he appointed to the Episcopal Ordination committee are already “working hard to prepare the celebration” alongside the Vicar General of Rumbek Diocese, Fr. Andrea Osman Okello.
“Any and all funds raised for or donated to Bishop-elect Christian's Ordination should be forwarded on receipt to either the SSP or Dollar account set up exclusively for that purpose in KBC Bank in Rumbek,” the South Sudanese Bishop says.
He adds, “I know you will all be keen to make sure the event goes as well as possible and I am grateful to you for your support.”
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.
Rumbek Diocese became vacant in July 2011 following the sudden death of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari on 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.
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.