Bishop-elect Christian Carlassare MCCI. Photo courtesy Fr. Carlassare.
Bishop-elect of Rumbek strikes defiant tone, arrests made in connection with Sunday attack
Bishop-elect Christian Carlassare MCCI of Rumbeck, recovering from gunshot wounds to the legs, says the attack in which he suffered his injuries has not deterred him.
Meanwhile, local authorities in Rumbek have made several arrests in connection with the attack, which occurred Sunday night at the Bishop-elect’s residence, among them two priests – Fr. John Mathiang, coordinator of Rumbek diocese since 2013, and Fr. Luka Dor – as well as Deacon Stephen Mangar, Marko Margan Dungu, Thomas Kockedhie e Santino Deng Malek.
Earlier this week, Fr. Mathiang had condemned the attack in remarks to Radio Tamazuj, a local independent broadcaster that reported 24 people had been held in connection with the attack before Fr. Mathiang’s arrest.
Authorities are reportedly pursuing an hypothesis of ethnic motivation.
Rumbek is an enormous territory in Lakes State, South Sudan — the diocese encompasses a stretch of earth roughly the size of Switzerland — the population of which hovers at around a million.
The Denka clan is the most numerous ethnic group in the region, and reportedly the most powerful. Their wealth comes largely from cattle raising, and family herds can number in the thousands of head, frequently protected by young and heavily armed clansmen.
Lakes State’s acting minister of Information and Communication, William Kocji Kerjok told Radio Tamazuj cited this context in remarks condemning the attack on Bishop-elect Carlassare.
“You know every case here has a reason,” he said. “There are cases related to girls eloping, cattle rustling, and some of them are related to revenge killings.”
Minister Kocji said authorities are treating this case as “politics within the Catholic Church itself,” noting that Bishop-elect Carlassarre “is very new to the place and he has no problem with anyone but he was shot on target.”
“[T]his one [case] of the Bishop seems to be something within his administration,” Kocjik said.
Bishop-elect Carlassare is an Italian missionary priest of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (MCCI), or the Comboni Missionaries. Pope Francis named him to the see of Rumbek on March 8 of this year, and he is scheduled to receive episcopal consecration on Pentecost.
Bishop-elect Carlassare struck a defiant tone in remarks to Italy’s daily Corriere della Sera newspaper earlier this week, saying: “If they wanted to intimidate me, they achieved the opposite effect.”