Bishop Carlassare: Pope's visit will give impulse to peace efforts in South Sudan
By Federico Piana
A few days after the Pope's Apostolic Journey to Malta, people are already looking ahead to his next visit to South Sudan, scheduled for July 5-7. The forthcoming visit will be "the fulfillment of an action begun by the Pontiff long ago to ask for peace in this country. Bishop Christian Carlassare of the South Sudanese diocese of Rumbek, whose episcopal ordination and subsequent installation ceremony took place last March 25, is convinced of this.
Forgiveness and hope
Bishop Carlassare acknowledges the challenge of bringing peace to the East African nation, devastated by years of tribal and political strife, but also severely tried by poverty. He has also experienced hatred and violence firsthand, when, on the night of 25 April last year, he was wounded in the legs by gunfire in an attack carried out shortly after the announcement of his appointment as bishop of Rumbek.
However, he has never lost hope: "For me, restarting means forgiving because without forgiveness there would be no restarting. Mercy, on the other hand, becomes the ability to establish relationships and rebuild relationships from where they were interrupted," he says.
Pope Francis’ forthcoming visit fits into that hope. He explains that the Pope’s visit will “give an important impetus to the process of pacification that will affect all communities, especially those that are most discouraged and most marginalized.”
In addition, the Pope's presence will also be a stimulus for the local Church committed to healing the wounds of the population: "It will be a great encouragement for the Church to be a real instrument of reconciliation and peace through the many works already present in the country, from those of evangelization to those of promoting the integrity of the human person".
Meeting with the Pope
A few days before his episcopal ordination and installation ceremony, Bishop Carlassare was received by Pope Francis at the Vatican.
"For me," he says, "it was truly a great joy to be able to meet the Holy Father in person. It was a very simple moment but of great harmony in which he told me a few but essential words: “Don't be afraid, the Lord always accompanies and sustains.”
“The blessing he gave me is that of a man who has trusted the Lord and is giving his life for the Church, that's why I consider it very important.”