Catholic Bishop in South Sudan Says Planned Ecumenical Visit “great encouragement”

Bishop Christian Carlassare welcomed at the Mapuordit community in South Sudan. Credit: Fr. Wanyonyi Eric Simiyu, S.J. (Rumbek)

The planned ecumenical visit of Pope Francis, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland to South Sudan later this year is “a great encouragement” to the people of God in the East-Central African nation, a Catholic Bishop in the country has said.

In an interview with Good News Radio (GNR) of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek, South Sudan, Bishop Christian Carlassare said the planned pastoral visit by the Holy Father is “vital because the Pope has always been active for peace in South Sudan.”

“I think that the visit of the Pope will be a great encouragement to our Church, Bishops, Priests, Religious and also lay Christians to commit themselves strongly to evangelize,” Bishop Carlassare said during the Saturday, April 9 interview with GNR shared with ACI Africa.

During his visit, Bishop Carlassare said, the Holy Father “will renew these strengths of the Church to finally evangelize and preach the gospel to everyone, without distinction.”

The Local Ordinary of South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese underscored the need to prioritize evangelization in South Sudan saying other gifts “take value from the fact that we are converted and we become disciples of Jesus and only Jesus can unite us.”


The Holy Father is scheduled to arrive in South Sudan on July 5 in his two-African-nation pastoral trip that is to begin in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on July 2.

When realized, the July 2-7 pastoral trip to the two African countries will mark the Pope’s third visit to sub-Saharan Africa.

The journey will be the first-ever Papal visit to South Sudan and the third Papal trip to DRC, which is home to Africa's largest Catholic population.

In the April 9 interview with GNR, Bishop Carlassare described the planned Papal visit as coming at “the right time”. 

He said, “I think the Pope even tried to visit us earlier. I think anytime the Pope would come would be the right time because the time of a guest to come to visit us is always the right time. A visitor will never arrive at the wrong time.”

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The planned Papal trip “is really crucial for bringing ahead the process of reconciliation, dialogue and taking a step forward towards the future,” the Italian-born member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) who has ministered in South Sudan since 2005 said.

He emphasized the need for cultivating unity in the world’s youngest nation that has experienced civil strife since December 2013, having gained independence from Sudan in July 2011.

“We are all one in Christ and I think division has been a great wound that has been a problem for Sudan and South Sudan for so long,” Bishop Carlassare said, and regretted the fact that South Sudan has been characterized by “so much division, so much fear of one another, so much violence, so much grudge.” 

“Unity can bring communion and can bring a future to this country,” he said.

For unity to be achieved, Bishop Carlassare said peace has to reach all and sundry in South Sudan.


“The peace that has been signed by our leaders, that desire of peace that is in everyone has to come down to all territories, to all people; that peace maybe not only in the upper rooms of our country, but maybe real down in every corner of our country, in all locations,” he said, making reference to the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).

The Bishop whose Episcopal Ordination was delayed for almost a year after he had shot in both legs regretted the fact that in South Sudan, “many people are still displaced and as long as there are displaced people that cannot live in security in their own land, peace is still at stake.”

“As long as there are people living in poverty that have to struggle to have the minimum essential necessities, peace is very difficult because as long as we have people suffering and that are wounded, it is more difficult to reconcile and to see a possible future,” Bishop Carlassare said.

Reflecting on the Church’s role in mediating inter-communal violent conflicts in South Sudan, the 44-year-old Bishop said, “The Church is present everywhere among all the communities and they preach one message, that is the gospel. That is the only one that unites all people that do not divide by clan, tribe or any other differences.”

“The church gives a great contribution towards education and so education means to form the young generation to open up to the world and reason in a different way with the wisdom that comes from the gospel, but also from an integral formation,” Bishop Carlassare said.

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He added, “I would say the Church also can help through our office or Department of Justice and Peace where we are ready to form agents for peace, we are able to encounter people, give them a room for listening for trauma healing to overcome the wounds that the conflict unfortunately affected people.”

“People are affected that they are not able to invest for the future because they don't trust the future; they just look for what they can eat today because of the conflict but curing from the trauma is also to give a new vision for the future,” Bishop Carlassare who has envisioned the revival of the trauma healing center that provided psychosocial assistance to pastoral agents in South Sudan said April 9.

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.