Father Christian Carlassare, who was appointed Bishop of Rumbek on Monday, nearly 10 years since the death of the diocese’s last bishop, described his appointment as an illustration of “the God of surprises.”
In a message to ACI Africa, Fr. Carlassare said he welcomed his episcopal appointment in a “spirit of faith” even though it was not among his expectations.
“God is the God of surprises. And his surprises, even though challenging, carry always a blessing,” the bishop-elect told ACI Africa March 8.
The member of the Comboni Missionaries added, “I did not expect this appointment, but I welcome it with spirit of faith and availability. May the loving plan of God for the Church of Rumbek and South Sudan be accomplished.”
“I am grateful to Pope Francis and the Church for the love and trust that have shown by calling me to the episcopal ministry and appointing me to be the Bishop of Rumbek.”
Fr. Carlassare, 43, was born in Italy. He studied at the Theological Faculty of Central Italy, and earned a baccalaureate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and a baccalaureate in missiology from the Pontifical Urban University.
He made his solemn profession as a member of the Comboni Missionaries in 2003, and was ordained a priest of the institute in 2004.
The priest went to South Sudan in 2005, and has served as a pastor. He was vice provincial for the Comboni Missionaries in South Sudan from 2017 to 2019, and from 2020 he has served as vicar general of the Diocese of Malakal.
The Diocese of Rumbek became vacant in July 2011 upon the death of Bishop Cesare Mazzolari, who was also a Comboni Missionary.
Fr. Fernando Colombo, another Comboni Missionary, was administrator of the diocese until December 2013, when the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples appointed Fr. John Mathiang as diocesan coordinator.
Fr. Carlassare acknowledged with appreciation the leadership of Fr. Mathiang, alongside members of the clergy ministering in the diocese, members of various religious orders, as well as the people of God.
“My thought goes to all the people of the diocese and their desire to encounter Christ in the Church,” he said, adding, “My obligation goes to all priests that are serving in the diocese, in particular Fr. John Mathiang for his commitment to lead the diocese in the past years as diocesan coordinator.”
“My appreciation goes to all the religious institutes and communities of men and women that enrich the diocese with their charisms, among them I show special gratitude to my confreres, the Comboni Missionaries and Sisters, especially those we have shared in the ministry,” he told ACI Africa.
He recognized the commitment of laity serving in the Rumbek diocese, saying, “I also acknowledge the commitment of many lay people, whether native from Rumbek or from other places and countries, those who work in the offices and institutions of the diocese, and committed Christians such as catechists, members of church councils, associations, men and women, youth and elders who form and build up this family of God.”
“I want to express my readiness to join the Diocese of Rumbek entering in the journey that you have been doing so far and offering my humble self,” the bishop-elect said.
At this moment, he added, “what I ask you more is for your prayer, with the trust that our Lord who started this good work will assist me with his grace and bring it to completion.”
“I also recall the person of the late bishop Cesare Mazzolari who gave his life to the people of Rumbek with the spirit of a good shepherd,” Fr. Carlassare said.
He went on to thank the people of God in the Malakal diocese, among whom he has been ministering since he arrived in South Sudan in 2005, saying, “I am also indebted with the Diocese of Malakal for the spirit of communion, support and kindness: May God reward you.”
Meanwhile, Fr. Mathiang has expressed his best wishes to the bishop-elect, promising collaboration.
In an interview with ACI Africa March 8, he said, “The message is just wishing him the best and then we promise collaboration and a good progress, whatever we have been doing he comes and joins us and we push ahead.”
In his service as diocesan coordinator, Fr. Mathiang told ACI Africa he has learned love, and collaboration from the people of God in the diocese, as well as the “spirit of hard work and interest in development that they have been expressing to me and to the Church for all the things done over the years.”
The love, collaboration and hard work needs to continue, he said, adding, “It's not all about me, it's about Jesus Christ and about the Church. The people have to continue that spirit; what we need is the progress ahead.”