'I'm well, improving, I'll be with you': Bishop-elect to S Sudan's Rumbek diocese

Fr. Christian Carlassare, Bishop-Elect of Rumbek, recovering at a hospital in Nairobi April 27 after having been shot in his rectory in Rumbek the previous day. Credit: ACI Africa. Fr. Christian Carlassare, Bishop-Elect of Rumbek, recovering at a hospital in Nairobi April 27 after having been shot in his rectory in Rumbek the previous day. Credit: ACI Africa.

The Bishop-Elect of Rumbek, who is in a Nairobi hospital recovering from gunshot injuries, sought on Tuesday to reassure his local Church that he is out of danger, and that he plans to return to the South Sudanese diocese.

In an April 27 ACI Africa video recording from his hospital bed, Fr. Christian Carlassare described the injuries he received April 26 as life-threatening, and urged reconciliation and “justice with the same heart of God.”

“I take the chance to greet all of you, my brothers and sisters, in Rumbek. I want you to be at peace to know that I’m well here in the hospital in Nairobi,” Fr. Carlassare said, adding that he is receiving good medical care, and he is improving.

“It will take some time for my legs to be able again to walk but I assure you that I will be back and I will be with you.”

Fr. Carlassare, 43, was appointed Bishop of Rumbek March 8. He traveled to the Rumbek diocese April 15 following a retreat in Juba. His episcopal consecrattion was to have taken place May 23.

He was reportedly the main target of two gunmen who gained access to his room in the early hours of April 26 by shooting multiple bullets on his door in the rectory of the Holy Family Cathedral in Rumbek. He was shot in both legs.

In the ACI Africa video Fr. Carlassare said, “Let us be united in prayer; let us be united with all our hearts to uphold forgiveness in our community.

He described God’s heart as “a merciful heart that can teach peace and can teach mercy to any person, because these values are present in the depth of each one of us.”

“As I'm far from you, I feel united to you. Please also be united with me in this process of reconciliation,” the bishop-elect said.

Speaking to ACI Africa at his hospital bed, Fr. Carlassare recalled his experiences since the threat on his life saying, “It has really been difficult to face this situation, to face death and to face all the problems that will come out from this shooting. But what made me to suffer most was the suffering of all the community of Rumbek.”

Recalling his message to those who visited him in hospital in Rumbek following his shooting, the bishop-elect said that the people of God in the diocese “did not deserve this; that they were in pain because of my bullets in the leg, but they saw that Rumbek was much more in pain than I was.”

“I called to the government and the community and all the people of Rumbek asking for forgiveness: to forgive those that committed this act, forgiveness that is not just being naive and leaving aside errors but correct errors not with violence, but with dialogue and forgiveness. I feel that the community of Rumbek needs much forgiveness to be able to dialogue and to come together,” Fr. Carlassare told ACI Africa April 27.

He said, “Certainly, justice is a great element and we need always to seek justice, but not always justice will really heal the heart of a person. Justice must be always accompanied by mercy because the medicine of the human relationship is given by mercy more than justice.”

He went on to express his gratitude to all those who have offered prayer for his healing and recovery including “the Pope that mentioned me in his prayers and many other people that made themselves present, the President of South Sudan, comprising also him and for his attention to me.”

The bishop-elect urged those who have expressed solidarity with him in prayer “to believe always in the goodness of every person” and cautioned those who reside “outside Rumbek, never to think that Rumbek is more violent than the other places just because of this incident but Rumbek has great riches and values that they can also make them to become fruitful.”

Fr. Carlassare said, “This is the mission of the Church and the Church has never to fear to proclaim the word of the gospel of peace and unity. And we have to be ready to offer our lives for that without fear.”

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“I have been welcomed wonderfully by the people in the first days in which I arrived,” he said, adding, “I passed some days joyfully because I saw a very rich diocese with many activities that are in place and many potentialities.”

He explained, “I really see that Rumbek has a great future. The people of Rumbek should never play themselves down. They are really in a very favorable situation to have a good journey as a Church.”

Three clerics are among 12 people arrested following the shooting of Fr. Carlassare, a source in Rumbek told ACI Africa on Tuesday. 

Fr. 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.

The Diocese of Rumbek has been vacant since the July 2011 death of Bishop Cesare Mazzolari, who was also a Comboni Missionary.

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