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South Sudan bishop hopes for conversion after men sentenced for shooting

Italian-born Bishop Christian Carlassare of Rumbek, South Sudan speaks from a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, in a video message posted on Twitter April 28, 2021. Bishop Carlassare expressed hope for conversion and healing as a court sentenced a Catholic priest and three others for his shooting. (CNS photo/Comboni Missionaries)

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NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) — Bishop Christian Carlassare of Rumbek, South Sudan, expressed hope for conversion and healing, as a court sentenced a Catholic priest and three others for his shooting.

Italian-born Bishop Carlassare, 44, was shot in his legs at his residence in Rumbek on April 26, 2021, slightly over a month after the Vatican appointed him to lead the diocese. The attack forced the rescheduling of the Comboni priest’s consecration as the bishop of the diocese in central South Sudan.

Rumbek had been without a bishop since 2011, following the death of Bishop Cesare Mazzolari, also a Comboni missionary.

In a statement after the sentencing on April 25, Bishop Carlassare said: “We appreciate the commitment and dedication of the government and the court. Though sad for what has happened and the resulting suffering, we pray that truth may bring conversion and healing.

“As a Church, we look forward with hope during this Easter time and remember Jesus’ call for forgiveness.”

A High Court judge in Juba ruled that Father John Mathiang Machol, Moris Sebit Ater, Laat Makur Agok and Samuel Makir were guilty of participating in the attack.

Father Machol will serve a seven-year jail term. In March, he was charged with inciting and plotting against the bishop-designate. He was serving as coordinator of the diocese when Bishop Carlassare was appointed.

Agok and Ater were convicted of executing the actual attack and will serve four years in jail. Makir, convicted of hiding evidence, will serve a five-year jail term, according to news reports.

Malith Mading, the defense lawyer, has he will appeal the ruling, according to Sudan-based Eye Radio.

“We agree with the decision, but we disagree with the findings of the judge,” he said.

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