Pope Francis meets with bishop who suffered assassination attempt

Jasjot Singh

Pope Francis met with the Bishop-elect of South Sudan, Msgr. Christian Carlassare, an Italian Comboni priest whose episcopal consecration was postponed last year after he suffered an assassination attempt in a shooting.

On Monday, March 14, Bishop Christian Carlassare met privately with Pope Francis at the Vatican, less than two weeks before his episcopal consecration, which is scheduled for next Friday, March 25.

The Vatican press reported that Pope Francis prayed for Archbishop Carlassare after the attack and announced that the Pontiff plans to visit Juba, the capital of South Sudan, from July 5 to 7.

On the night of April 25, 2021, Bishop Carlassare was shot in the legs in an attempt to assassinate him. Two armed men shot at the door of his room and forced their way inside. The bishop-elect’s bedroom is in a place that houses the priests who serve in the Cathedral of the Holy Family of the Diocese of Rumbek.

During his hospitalization, the Prelate offered his sorrow for the end of the violence in South Sudan.

The attack occurred just over a month after Pope Francis appointed him Bishop of Rumbek. Bishop Carlassare has been serving as a missionary priest in the Diocese of Malakal since 2005.

The Diocese of Rumbek has been vacant since July 2011, after the death of the Comboni missionary Monsignor Cesare Mazzolari.

Bishop Carlassare was initially treated in Rumbek and then flown to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. On May 17, 2021, the Prelate was released from the hospital to receive home care.

The day after the attack, in a video recording from his hospital bed, Bishop Carlassare described the shooting as life-threatening, but called for reconciliation and “justice with the very heart of God.”

“It will take some time for my legs to be able to walk again, but I assure you that I will come back and I will be with you,” he said in the video message.

On May 5, 2021, before his discharge from the hospital, the bishop-elect said he was imploring God for an end to “the violence, the division [y] selfish desires” in the Diocese of Rumbek.

“I bow before God to intercede for the Church of Rumbek. I pray for the conversion of sinners,” Carlassare said in a recorded message by ACI Africa, an agency of the ACI Group.

“I offer the pain that I am going through so that our Lord, God, purifies the church of Rumbek of all errors so that things like these do not happen anymore. There is no place for violence, division, [y] the selfish desires that come from the devil,” he assured.

In June 2021, South Sudanese Lake State police arrested a second person suspected of being involved in the shooting. The arrest brought the number of detainees over the incident to six, including Fr. John Mathiang, who served as Rumbek’s diocesan coordinator.

As of November 2021, the shooting suspects were in detention in Juba, having been transferred from Rumbek.

Two of the six suspects were released in early March this year, due to what a judge called a “lack of evidence against them,” ICA Africa reported.

The Diocese of Rumbek serves some 200,000 Catholics in central South Sudan, an area with a population of 1.7 million.

The city of Rumbek was the capital of the country from the end of the Second Sudanese Civil War in 2005, until the independence of South Sudan in 2011, when the capital was moved to Juba.

Translated and adapted by Cynthia Pérez. Originally posted on CNA.

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