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RUMBEK, South Sudan (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholic clerics are among those implicated in the shooting of a South Sudanese bishop-elect.
Three Catholic clerics were among 12 suspects arrested Monday in conjunction with the April 26 shooting of Bishop-Elect Christian Carlassare in South Sudan's Rumbek diocese. The other nine suspects arrested in what's believed to be a targeted attack are "prominent lay personalities" in the diocese.
An inside source told ACI Africa (ACI) that a cell phone found at the crime scene linked the suspects to the shooting.
"When the two men shot the bishop-elect, one of them dropped down his phone and the bishop fell on it," the source related. "It is this phone that the security used to find the people connected."
Carlassare is nursing bullet wounds in both of his legs and was airlifted to Nairobi, Kenya for specialized treatment at the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF). He remains in stable condition.
South Sudan president Salva Kiir demanded a thorough investigation into the attack. In an April 26 statement, Kirr related that he "learned with dismay the unfortunate incident that involved the Rt. Rev. Christian Carlassare, bishop-elect of Rumbek diocese, who was shot last night by the unidentified gunmen."
The president labeled the shooting a "reprehensible act of violence" and called upon all South Sudanese "to condemn the criminals" who carried out the heinous crime.
The president continued:
If those who carried out this shameful act were doing so to intimidate the Church, they are sadly mistaken. The Catholic faithful Bishop-Elect Christian Carlassare was chosen to lead and authorities in Lakes State will stand by him and will not allow [the] action of [a] few criminals to affect the plans of ecclesiastical authority.
Father Carlassare was appointed by Pope Francis on March 8 to lead the diocese of Rumbek. He was scheduled to be consecrated bishop on Pentecost Sunday, May 23.
The Italian-born missionary of St. Daniele Comboni served in South Sudan's diocese of Malakal since his arrival in 2005. He moved to Rumbek on April 15, after a retreat at the nation's capital of Juba.
Despite the violent attack, Carlassare remains in good spirits. He's appealing for both prayer and forgiveness for those responsible.
"Pray for me, and let's all pray for the diocese of Rumbek that God may have mercy on us and receive His graces," he petitioned. "We also need to forgive those who committed this kind of action."
"Let us be united in prayer; let us be good Christians and trust the Lord and that the Lord may do something good," he added. "I thank the doctors, priests and people of the Church for being with me during this moment of suffering from the night till now."
As of press time, the names of those arrested have not been released. Police are expected to continue investigating all 12 suspects but have yet to uncover the specific motive behind the attack.