Bishop-Elect of Rumbek Pledges to Foster Unity, Receives Heroic Reception

Returning after recovering frm a gunshot wound, Father Carlassare told the faithful, “You are my strength; you have been my strength and am back here because of you.”

Father Christian Carlassare, Bishop-elect of Rumbek, speaks at Holy Family Cathedral, March 23, 2022.
Father Christian Carlassare, Bishop-elect of Rumbek, speaks at Holy Family Cathedral, March 23, 2022. (photo: Courtesy photo / Courtesy photo)

Father Christian Carlassare, the bishop-elect of Rumbek, returned to his see Wednesday to jubilation, as he emphasized his intention to build unity in the diocese.

The priest was shot in the legs shortly after his March 2021 nomination as Bishop of Rumbek.

He was cared for at a hospital in Kenya, and he returned to South Sudan last week.

“I am grateful to the governor and to all the authorities of this state and also this country because you have been standing by us as Church and helping us as you are working for peace in this country and in this territory,” Father Carlassare, 44, said on his arrival at Rumbek Airport March 23.

He added in reference to the peace process in South Sudan, “We are united in this work because it is a gift that comes from God and it is a commitment that we have to take all of us together.”

Father Carlassare went on to express his gratitude to “all the people of the Church, Catholics and also people of other denominations, because the message of the gospel and Jesus is uniting us to be what God created us to be, brothers and sisters; and as Church we will always proclaim that and work for the dignity of every person.”

“The reception you have given me has given a lot of pride to all people of Lakes state, this area that is under the Diocese of Rumbek,” the bishop-elect said, adding that the warm reception “also gives honor to all the country and this will be seen all over the world and the world will see that South Sudanese are people that desire and work for peace.”

“I come to be brother of each one of us, no one is excluded. I thank you for adopting me in this country and this place,” he added.

Rin Tueny Mabor, governor of Lakes state, greeted Father Carlassare, saying, “This is a wonderful day and we praise God. Together we will work for peace, stability and unity among our people.”

Father Carlassare returned to South Sudan March 18, and his episcopal consecration will be held March 25. 

Speaking at Holy Family Cathedral in Rumbek March 23, Father Carlassare told the faithful, “You are my strength; you have been my strength and am back here because of you.”

“You are my strength because God is our strength; we are Christians and this is the Church,” he said, adding, “Here we are all brothers and sisters; here we correct each other; here we forgive each other; here we are united around Jesus.”

“I’m not back because of the chair; I’m back to work with you on these streets. We will not stay only inside the cathedral; we will go to our land to meet people where they are, even in the villages where people are far,” he said.

“There is no black, red, white; we are equal. In the Church there is no discrimination between men and women; we are brothers and sisters and we work together. In the Church there is no rich and poor; we are one in Christ,” Father Carlassare emphasized.

Father Carlassare was born in Italy. He made his solemn profession as a member of the Comboni Missionaries in 2003, was ordained a priest of the institute in 2004, and went to South Sudan in 2005. 

He was appointed Bishop of Rumbek March 8, 2021, after a vacancy of nearly 10 years. He was to have been consecrated a bishop the following May 23, but he was shot in the early hours of April 26.

Two armed men fired multiple bullets at his door, gaining access to his room in the rectory of Holy Family Cathedral. He was shot in both legs. 

After initial treatment in Rumbek, he was airlifted to a hospital in Nairobi. He was discharged for home care in May, and returned to Italy.

In June 2021, police in Lakes state arrested a second person suspected of involvement in the shooting.

The arrest brought the number of those detained concerning the incident to six, among them Father John Mathiang, who served as Rumbek’s diocesan coordinator from December 2013 to May 5, 2021.

Father Mathiang was removed as diocesan coordinator on the appointment of Bishop Matthew Remijio Gbitiku of Wau as apostolic administrator of Rumbek.

Two of the six suspects in the shooting were freed earlier in March because of what a judge called a “lack of evidence against them.”