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South Sudan: Attackers shoot Italian bishop-elect in his home

Persecution of Christians in South Sudan has been rare so far, but threatens to increase, as there are numerous forces in the region where it is located that have targeted Christians in the recent past. South Sudan became an independent country in 2011. It is about 60% Christian, mostly Roman Catholic and Anglican. This shooting raises the possibility that the persecution of Christians could become a feature even of this new state.

By grace of God and the blessings of His Beatitude Theodore II, the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, Metropolitan Narkissos (Gammoh) of Nubia founded the first Orthodox Christian missionary center in South Sudan in 2015. See details here.

May Almighty God bless South Sudan and turn the hearts of its people to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Attackers shoot Italian bishop-elect in his home in South Sudan,” by Claire Giangravé and Fredrick Nzwili, RNS, April 27, 2021:

(RNS) — An Italian Roman Catholic priest sent two months ago to lead the Diocese of Rumbek, in South Sudan, was seriously injured Monday (April 26) by gunmen who stormed the priest’s residence and fired at least 13 bullets.

The attack on the Rev. Christian Carlassare sent shock waves through the Christian community in South Sudan and highlighted the risks clergy assume in serving in the conflict-ridden East African nation.

The missionary was airlifted from Rumbek to a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, and is stable after several blood transfusions, Vatican officials said. South Sudanese church officials expressed optimism, noting that the shots did not fracture Carlassare’s bones.

The Vatican said that Pope Francis is praying for Carlassare, a 43-year-old Comboni Missionary priest who was set to become the world’s youngest Italian bishop on May 23.

The diocese’s bishopric fell vacant in 2011 after the death of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari. Before Carlassare’s appointment, he had been serving in the Diocese of Malakal, in the country’s northeast.

South Sudan, which will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its secession from Sudan in July, has been engulfed in a civil war since its independence as ethnic groups fight for advantage.

Christians make up roughly 60% of the population, according to a Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life report in 2012, with Roman Catholics making up the majority but a sizable number of Anglicans also in the country. In a message on Christmas Eve, Francis joined with Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to exhort the country’s Christians to support peace and reconciliation.

The Catholic Church has acted as a mediator for the complex peace negotiations between the opposing Dinka and Nuer tribes, and previous South Sudanese bishops have played a crucial part in promoting cease-fires. Ecumenical efforts, including by the South Sudan Council of Churches, have been instrumental in fitful periods of peace.

In what has become one of the most iconic moments of this pontificate, Pope Francis knelt and kissed the feet of President Salva Kiir Mayardit and opposition leader Riek Machar during their visit to the Vatican in April 2019, begging them to restore peace.

In June of last year, an Anglican priest, the Rev. Daniel Garang Ayuen, was killed in an attack in which the cathedral of the Diocese of Athooch and a local village were set ablaze. In 2018, a Kenyan-born Catholic priest, the Rev. Victor Luka Odhiambo, a Jesuit, was murdered in the northwest of the country. In 2017, Pentecostal Bishop Joel Mwendwa was killed in Juba, allegedly for being too noisy.

Some have suggested that the attack against Carlassare may have been a warning for the Catholic Church to keep out of the political disputes in South Sudan and deter a papal visit.

On Monday at 1 a.m., two men entered Carlassare’s home in Rumbek, the country’s former capital, about a six-hour drive north of Juba, the current capital, and began firing.

As photographs of the wounded priest circulated online, Francis expressed his closeness to Carlassare through Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni on Tuesday. Carlassarre was reportedly quick to forgive his aggressors, whose motives remain unknown, telling local media outlets that he carries “no grudges” and asking for prayers “for the people of Rumbek who suffer more than I do.”…

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