Father Christian Carlassare, Bishop-Elected of Rumbek, diocese in South Sudan, is well aware of the complex ethnic conflit happening in the country, although this doesn’t seem to give any t explanation on the attack where he was involved last April, injuring his legs.. The Comboni Father (born in Piovene, Italy) recently came back home and he has just concluded a period of quarantine. On Monday, he visited the Canossian Convent of Schio, where the remains of the Sudanese Saint Giuseppina Bakhita are kept.
Father Christian, how is your recovery going, after your injury?
«Now I can walk without crutches. I move autonomously even if I can’t run, climb the mountain or sustain long walks. I just have to exercise to strenghten my muscles».
In an article published on the magazine Nigrizia this month, you described the situation of the Church in South Sudan, where “the blood of culture and ethnicity remains stronger and more important than sacred water”. I say this as a joke: are you sure you want to go back there?
«Africa is like that, it’s very complex, but in a hopeless situation, the people there are accustomed to never abandon the challenge. They believe that something can change. I can’t help but being part of this hope».
On 23 May, your consecration as Bishop should have taken place, after your designation on 8 March. On the night of 25-26 April you were shot in the legs. You were hospitalized in Nairobi and then you returned in Italy. What is the situation today in Rumbek?
«The Diocese is currently governed by an Apostolic Administrator, who has the task to guide it until my arrival and solving the problems that arose after the attack. The investigations is ongoing. When this is over in court, we will see how to proceed. As for me I decided to return to Italy precisely so this can take place in the best way. I plan to return to South Sudan in October. In the meantime I will rest and in September I will be in Rome to meet the Secretariat of State and the Propaganda Fide».
Concerning the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Gallagher’s trip to South Sudan was scheduled for May this year. Gallagher should have presided over your consecration. Why is the Catholic Church so involved in the peace talks in South Sudan?
«In the Church there is always an attention to the most desperate realities and the most difficult situation such as, in Africa, the Central African Republic or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the case of South Sudan, it was the international community that asked the Church to take an interest in the peace process as the Church is the only reality present in all the ethnic communities of the country. It’s the only credible and accepted institution by all».
The investigation on your attack, not yet concluded, have involved authoritative leaders of the Diocese. Will it be difficult to heal this wound?
«After the attack, I received solidarity from the government, from the local authorities, from the Church and from the people. There is a great desire for change and the hope is that this can happen from my presence. As I said at the beginning, despite what happened, there is hope and I feel, in some way, that I am part of it. We need to start again from within as a Diocese, to purify the unclear aspects and start over. People need this».