Catholic Bishop – Elect shot in South Sudan

By Deng Machol

Bishop Christian Carlassare, an Italian Comboni priest, sustained gunshot wounds in both legs during an attack

Juba – The Bishop-elect for South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese was last night by a number of unknown armed assailants.

Bishop Christian Carlassare, an Italian Comboni priest, sustained gunshot wounds in both legs during an attack on his residence at around 1am last night.

He is now reportedly nursing bullet wounds at a CUAMM health facility in Rumbek hospital in Lakes State of South Sudan.

He is also reportedly in a stable condition.

There is no leg broken and no fractures caused by the bullets on both legs. But there is persistent serious bleeding which has been dressed up.

The health facility under the auspices of Italy-based non-governmental organization focused on healthcare, Doctors with Africa CUAMM.

“The incident happened at 12.45 last night. I heard the Father (Bishop-elect) shouting,” Fr. Andrea Osman of Rumbek Diocese who was in his room next door has told ACI Africa.

“The armed men targeted Bishop-elect room. They knocked the door and started shooting the door till they broke it. They shot the door till it opened,” Mr. Abenego Marol, umbek-based head of logistics for the South Sudanese Diocese told ACI Africa, adding, “After they shot the Bishop, they ran away. It is really a targeted shooting.”

The Italian-born Comboni Missionary Cleric was appointed Bishop for Rumbek Diocese March 8. His episcopal ordination was scheduled to take place on Pentecost Sunday, May 23.

He 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 April 15 following days of spiritual retreat in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

Rumbek 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, one week after South Sudan’s independence, and was confirmed dead at the Rumbek State Hospital that morning.

Fr. Fernando Colombo, a member of the Comboni Missionaries governed the 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.

Following the attack, Lakes State Acting Information and Communication Minister William Kocji Kerjok said that 24 people have been arrested in contention with the attack.

He described the attack as a targeted assault on bishop-elect.

“It was a targeted attack. They went directly to the door, they knocked the door and started shooting the door until it opened and they reached him, ordered him to sit down and shot him on the leg,” Minister explained.

“The police and other security organs have arrested people within the compound and more arrests will continue because we need to know exactly what is happening within the Catholic Church of the Diocese of Rumbek,” he said.

However, Bishop – elect Carlassare, reportedly said that he forgave his attackers and called for kindness and reconciliation in Lakes state diocese.

“I tried to speak to them, but they cocked the gun and shot me in the leg. And then they loitered around and later fled,” Fr. Carlassare Told Eye Radio. “They were not here to steal or kill me because they would have killed me easily.”

‘I know that the people are suffering more than me at this moment for what happened. Rumbek deserves much better than this. So I forgive with all my heart anyone who did this action or perpetuate it’, Fr. Carlassare said as he offered forgiveness to his attackers.  

The motive of the attack is unclear, but the observers suggested it could be as a result of a possible ‘church politics’. 

The Diocesan Coordinator of Rumbek Catholic Diocese, Father John Mathiang, condemned the attack.

“We were woken up by the cry and sound of gunfire. We went there and we found the Bishop was shot in both legs and the criminals ran away. We took the Bishop to Rumbek Hospital for treatment until now we are in the Hospital with him,” Fr. Mathiang said.

In the press statement, the South Sudan Human Rights Commission has condemned the attack and appealed to the government to find and bring justice to the perpetrators. 

‘The commission hereby condemns this barbaric act in strongest terms possible and urges both the State and National Government to institute an investigation committee to conduct thorough investigation with the aim of holding the culprits accountable’, the Country’s Human Rights body said.

Plans are underway to airlift him (Bishop – elect) to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi for a further treatment through the services of the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), a source said. 

South Sudan, particularly Lakes State has been blighted by the intercommunal conflict or violence, which put a lives of the citizens in risk.

This is not the first time for thebe seniorr church members to seniored, two years ago, one of the senior pastors was killed in Cuei-bet County in Lakes State. 

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