Tuesday, July 18, 2023
Bishop Christian Carlassare of Rumbek Diocese in South Sudan has remembered his predecessor, Bishop Cesare Mazzolari, as a tireless “sower”. In his homily on the occasion of Bishop Mazzolari’s 12th death anniversary on Sunday, July 16, Bishop Carlassare related his predecessor’s ministry in South Sudan to the parable of the sower in the Gospel reading of the day, the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A. [ACI Africa]

Similar to the sower in the parable, who “walks and sows the seed”, Bishop Carlassare says in his homily notes he shared with ACI Africa, “Bishop Mazzolari left Italy and USA to come to South Sudan in the eighties and to Rumbek in 1991.”

Bishop Christian Carlassare. Credit: Samuel Mabor Maker/Catholic Diocese of Rumbek.

“The sower went out and – the Gospel did not say he returned home. He did not. He continued to sow,” he says, and relating the untiring sowing to his predecessor who died during Holy Mass at the age of 74 adds, “The sower is sowing till now. Bishop Mazzolari continued to sow till his last day, and surely, he is still sowing from his resting place through his intercession.”

Like the sower in the parable who must have been buried, upon his death, under the same soils he had scattered the seeds, “Bishop Mazzolari shared the same destiny; he planted and was buried in the land he served,” the Italian-born member of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (MCCJ) says about his late confrere and compatriot, who was laid to rest inside the Holy Family Cathedral of Rumbek Diocese. In the notes of his July 16 homily shared with ACI Africa, he adds, “Like the Word of God planted in our hearts, so we carry Bishop Mazzolari and what he did in our hearts as well.”

Amid challenges in his ministry at the helm of Rumbek Diocese, Bishop Mazzolari said he continued to be hopeful, many times having to hope against human hope, Bishop Carlassare says, recalling the words of the late Bishop in a 2009 interview. Such attitude of hope that Bishop Mazzolari spoke about in self-examination relates to the sower in the parable, who “sows along the path, on hard soil, on rocky ground, among thorns,” the Local Ordinary of Rumbek Diocese says, adding that in sowing in different soils, “the sower sees hope everywhere ... He sows because of his faith in God.”

The sower in the parable “sows because of his faith in conversion: the seed (the Word of God) can change people into a new humanity, can change the world into a fraternal world,” Bishop Carlassare says, recalling the attitude of faith, hope, and generosity of his predecessor, Bishop Mazzolari. The Catholic Bishop who started his Priestly ministry in South Sudan in the Catholic Diocese of Malakal in 2005 goes on to recognize the good intentions of the sower in the parable, saying, “The sower looks for good soil.”

Credit: Samuel Mabor Maker/Catholic Diocese of Rumbek

“Bishop Mazzolari believed that you are the good soil, each one of you; South Sudan is that promised land where the vision of God may be accomplished,” Bishop Carlassare says in his July 16 homily notes that he shared with ACI Africa. He challenges the people of God in South Sudan to reflect on the type of soil they are. “What soil do we leave in heritage to our children? Rocks of conflicts? Soil of peace?” Bishop Carlassare poses, and adds, “Bishop Mazzolari prepared the soil to build a good Church… let us keep it good – together”. He further appeals, “Bishop Mazzolari planted the Word of God and Works of Mercy… let us continue on the same path. We shall have good fruits!”

Rumbek Diocese became vacant on 16 July 2011 following the sudden death of Bishop Mazzolari; he stumbled back onto his chair at the beginning of consecration and grabbed his chest while gasping for air. He was confirmed dead at the State Hospital in Rumbek where he had been rushed. Fr. Fernando Colombo, a confrere of the late Bishop, governed the South Sudanese Diocese as Diocesan Administrator until 27 December 2013, when Fernando Cardinal Filoni, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed Fr. John Mathiang as Diocesan Coordinator. 

Pope Francis appointed Fr. Carlassare as Bishop for Rumbek Diocese on 8 March 2021. His Episcopal Consecration that had been initially scheduled for Pentecost Sunday that year (23 May 2021) was postponed indefinitely after he was shot in both legs on 26 April 2021. He was Consecrated Bishop on 25 March 2022 after having recovered from the gunshot wounds. The 45-year-old Bishop has spearheaded the establishment of Bishop Mazzolari Memorial House that he inaugurated on July 16.

Photo Gallery of the Bishop Mazzolari Memorial House:
that was inaugurated on 16 July 2023, the occasion of his 12th death anniversary.
Credit: Good News Radio/Rumbek Diocese

[By Fr. Don Bosco Onyalla – ACI Africa]