Bishop Christian Carlassare and his community in Rumbek Bishop Christian Carlassare and his community in Rumbek 

Bishop of Rumbek: South Sudan awaits Cardinal Parolin

The Bishop of Rumbek looks ahead to the Secretary of State's upcoming visit to the country that is struggling to implement a peace process.

By Francesca Sabatinelli - Rumbek

Peace in South Sudan needs to be promoted and lived. That’s why Pope Francis has sent Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, to represent him in a country that needs encouragement and support as it struggles to consolidate a fragile peace process.

The peace process got underway after the signing of an agreement that officially put an end to the fratricidal war that killed thousands of people and displaced millions more between 2013 and 2018.

In an interview with Vatican News, Bishop Christian Carlassare said "Cardinal Parolin comes at an important moment."

Even if the Pope could not be present with his pastoral visit, there is still the need to promote that peace that has been signed, but that must be lived. There is the need to take steps forward.

That’s also why Cardinal Parolin will meet with political leaders, bringing them the Pope's support to lead South Sudan out of the crisis, in accordance with the deal signed in 2018 by President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar.

An auspicious moment for peace

For the Comboni missionary Carlassare, who was appointed Bishop of Rumbek on March 8, 2021, this is a propitious moment.

Carlassare, who was the victim of an assassination attempt on April 25 of that same year, had organized a pilgrimage by foot from his diocese to the capital Juba, together with a hundred young people in anticipation of the Pope's arrival.

"The institutions," he explained, "are very supportive of peace: there is the will, however, the wounds remain open, the path is very complex, the displaced people and the refugees have not yet returned to their territories, many of which are still unsafe due to the presence of enemy tribes that make reintegration impossible, but also for the presence of so many weapons and militias.”

What South Sudan is in need of now, is something the Bishop calls “a peace from below,” one brought about by the people, and which the institutions in the various provinces have been unable to implement.

“There is a need to stop and give confidence, leaving aside the violence of previous years, even if it is not easy to turn the page.”

The role of the Church and NGOs

The role of the Church is fundamental, Bishop Carlassare said pointing to its "gift of being present among all the communities in the country and in every place, and bringing a unique message, which is that of the Gospel.”

That message, he said, makes the population feel that they are no longer so divided by ethnic affiliations “that have become a bit of a curse for the country.”

It is a message that makes them feel “they belong to a common path, that of humanity, a humanity that is finally reconciled and that can give the country a future.”

Through preaching, liturgical celebrations, and also through education, which is a priority of the Church in South Sudan, I think things, slowly, will change.

Another vital task in South Sudan is entrusted to non-governmental organizations, among them Doctors with Africa CUAMM, in whose hospital, the only one in the entire Lakes State where Rumbek is the capital, Bishop Carlassare was transported after he was injured.

"People have great trust in the Church," the prelate continued, "as well as in nongovernmental organizations that offer important services that are not offered by the institutions.

“People must learn to do their part, they must find the strength for change also by looking at the commitment that the international community offers thanks to the NGOs.”

Pope Francis' call

Bishop Carlassare concluded noting that the Church is also a link that enables this commitment to be implemented.

"Of course," he said, "South Sudan is happy with Parolin's visit, but it is still waiting for Pope Francis. The arrival of the Secretary of State represents an extra step and a reminder of the need to walk in earnest, so that when the Pope arrives, he will find a people that is waiting: not sitting, but standing.”

“It is a people who are waiting for the Pope and who will be somehow converted by the Announcement that only Pope Francis can make: a call to unity to fraternity and to the Gospel.”

01 July 2022, 14:09