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Bishop-elect in South Sudan shot, evacuation plans for specialized treatment underway

Fr. Christian Carlassare Fr. Christian Carlassare, bishop-elect of the Diocese of Rumbek/ Fr. Carlassare

The bishop-elect for South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese was shot last night and is nursing bullet wounds at a local health facility, multiple sources have told ACI Africa.

“Our Bishop-elect was shot last night. He is currently receiving treatment at CUAMM hospital in Rumbek,” a source told ACI Africa on Monday, referencing the health facility under the auspices of the Italy-based non-governmental organization Doctors with Africa CUAMM

Fr. Christian Carlassare, MCCJ, was appointed as bishop-elect for the diocese on March 8, filling a vacancy that lasted for almost a decade.

“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 to Carlassare when the shooting occured, told ACI Africa.

“The two people were armed. I tried to knock the door of my door from inside so that I can scare them away, but they didn't seem bothered,” Fr. Andrea said. He added that the armed men targeted the bishop-elect, a testimony confirmed by the head of logistics for the diocese, Abenego Marol, who was also fired upon.

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“The armed men targeted his (Carlassare’s) room. They knocked the door and started shooting the door till they broke it. They shot the door till it opened,” Marol told ACI Africa, adding, “After they shot the Bishop, they ran away. It is really a targeted shooting.”

In his recounting of the events, Fr. Andrea told ACI Africa of the armed men, “When they saw me, they told me to go away. One of them fired two bullets at me.” The shots landed on the chair behind him.

Fr. Andrea added, making reference to the bishop-elect, “I think they shot him three bullets, two on one leg and the other one on the other leg. This is what happened. He was shot in front of his door.”

Carlassare is in a stable condition, a source said, citing a doctor who is attending to the bishop-elect. He added that doctors have controlled the heavy bleeding.

Plans are underway to airlift the bishop-elect to Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, through the services of the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), a source involved in the evacuation told ACI Africa.

The episcopal ordination of Carlassare, the Italian-born Comboni Missionary priest, was scheduled to take place on Pentecost Sunday, May 23.

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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 on 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 while offering Mass on the morning of July 16, 2011, one week after South Sudan’s independence. He 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 Dec. 27, 2013. Fernando Cardinal Filoni, then-prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed Fr. Mathiang as the next diocesan administrator.

In an April 26 statement, the South Sudan Human Rights Commission condemned the “barbaric” shooting and cited ACI Africa’s report.

“The event leading to this unfortunate development and other relevant information, it’s has become clear that the Bishop-elect was sole target of the attack,” the commission stated.

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“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 commission stated. It called on Catholics “to remain calm” while the government investigates the shooting.

This story was updated on April 26.

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