Msgr. Christian Carlassare, an Italian Comboni Missionary who has served in South Sudan since 2005 and was appointed by Pope Francis bishop-elect of the Diocese of Rumbek on March 8, was shot in both legs on Monday, April 26 by two armed gunmen in what authorities report appears to be a targeted attack. The gunmen were able to access Msgr. Carlassare’s room at Holy Family Cathedral complex where he is living. Bishop-elect Carlassare was first treated in Rumbek, then air-lifted to Nairobi, Kenya. His injuries are not life-threatening.
Arrests have been made after leads were investigated from a cell phone dropped at the scene by one of the attackers. Authorities have arrested twenty people they believe are connected to the shooting based on the leads from the cell phone. Those arrested include three priests and prominent lay leaders of the Rumbek diocese, as well as police assigned to the area and diocesan staff. A motive for the shooting has not been determined, but South Sudan has been torn by tribal violence, especially among those fighting over land and livestock, and some speculate that ethnic rivalries may have played a part in the attack.
South Sudan has a population of 11 million Catholics, the largest religious group in the country. South Sudan won its independence from Sudan in 2011, and the cathedra in Rumbek has been vacant since the death of Bishop Cesare Mazzolari, who died that same year.
As he was being transferred to Nairobi, bishop-elect Carlassare, who is 43 years old, asked for prayers. “Pray for me and let’s all pray for the Diocese of Rumbek that God may have mercy on us and receive His graces,” Msgr. Carlassare said. “We also need to forgive those who committed this kind of action. Let us be united in prayer, let us be good Christians and trust the Lord and that the Lord may do something good. I thank the doctors, priests, and people of the Church for being with me during this moment of suffering from the night till now.”
From his hospital bed in Nairobi, bishop-elect Carlassare told the Catholics of Rumbek, “I want you to be at peace to know that I’m well here in the hospital in Nairobi. … 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.” Pope Francis said that he is praying for the recovery of Carlassare, who was scheduled to be installed as bishop on May 23, Pentecost Sunday.
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