Pope Francis Establishes New Diocese in South Sudan, Designates Comboni Missionary Bishop Christian Carlassare as Pioneer Local Ordinary

In a significant ecclesiastical development, Pope Francis has established the Catholic Diocese of Bentiu in South Sudan, naming Bishop Christian Carlassare, a dedicated member of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (MCCJ), as its first Bishop. This announcement, made by the Holy See Press Office on July 3, marks the eighth diocese in the world’s newest nation.

The Diocese of Bentiu, carved out from the Catholic Diocese of Malakal, is now a suffragan of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba. The diocese spans 37,836 square kilometers and serves a population of 1,131,886 people, with Catholics making up nearly 55% of this number. The creation of this new diocese reflects the growth and vibrancy of the Catholic community in South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in July 2011.

Bishop Christian Carlassare in a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, April 27, 2021, after having been shot in Rumbek, South Sudan. (photo: ACI Africa/CNA / EWTN)

Bishop Carlassare, born in Italy and a member of the Comboni Missionaries, has spent his entire priestly ministry in South Sudan. Ordained in 2004, he has been a steadfast presence in the Malakal Diocese. His dedication and service were recognized by Pope Francis when he was appointed Bishop of Rumbek Diocese in March 2021. However, his episcopal consecration was delayed after he survived a shooting in both legs on 26 April 2021.

Despite this setback, Bishop Carlassare continues to serve with resilience and commitment. He will temporarily remain as the Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek Diocese while beginning his new responsibilities in Bentiu. His leadership is expected to bring stability and growth to the newly formed diocese, which starts with seven parishes, seven diocesan priests, four religious priests, ten major seminarians, and two male religious institutes.

In a recent reflection on his second episcopal anniversary, Bishop Carlassare drew inspiration from “The Pact of the Catacombs,” a document from the Second Vatican Council emphasizing evangelical poverty and simplicity. He praised the 13 commitments of the Bishop signatories, highlighting their relevance to his mission in South Sudan.

As Bishop Carlassare prepares to shepherd the Diocese of Bentiu, his life and work stand as a testament to the enduring spirit of the Comboni Missionaries and their commitment to serving the people of South Sudan.

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