An Italian Catholic priest has been wounded in a shooting in South Sudan, leading to the arrest of multiple local clerics, government and church officials said Tuesday.
Christian Carlassare, 43, was at his residence at the Rumbek Catholic Diocese in central South Sudan on Sunday night when two attackers shot at him multiple times.
The priest, recently appointed bishop but yet to be ordained, was shot in the legs, according to church officials.
A missionary who had served as parish priest in neighboring Jonglei state for 11 years, Carlassare moved to the Rumbek diocese last month.
Acting Information Minister for Lakes State, William Kogi, told AFP that two gunmen stormed the church compound before gaining access to a 12-room building accommodating priests and sprayed bullets at Carlassare’s door, and later directly at him.
“When the other priests came in, they (gunmen) didn’t shoot (at) them or do anything to them,” he said.
“His room was the only one targeted.”
The motive of the attack was not clear but the minister alluded to existing “politics” within the church.
Twenty-five suspects, including a former acting bishop of the diocese, priests and security guards from the compound, have been arrested, said Kongi.
One of the alleged attackers is also among those in police custody.
“Some members within the church (were) arrested for investigation because there was politics within the church and all of them are liable for investigations,” said Kongi.
Pope Francis “has been informed of the attack and prays for him,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told Vatican News.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir termed the attack “unacceptable” and called for a quick investigation.
“If those who carried out this shameful act were doing so to intimidate the church, they are sadly mistaken ... authorities will not allow (the) action of (a) few criminals to affect the plans of ecclesiastical authority,” he said in a statement.
Comboni Missionaries, an international group that Carlassare belongs to, said he was in a stable condition.
However the injuries affected the soft tissues of both legs and led to “a major” loss of blood that required a transfusion.
“We join the many persons of goodwill who are expressing their dismay at this umpteenth episode of violence against defenseless and innocent people,” the Rome-based missionaries group said.