Rumbek mourns Bishop Ceasere Mazzolari

Rumbek, South Sudan, mourns its Bishop Ceasere Mazzolari, a tireless man of God.
Bishop Ceasere Mazzolari, a tireless man of God.
Bishop Ceasere Mazzolari, a tireless man of God.

On Saturday July 16th the Bishop of Rumbek, South Sudan, Bishop Ceasere Mazzolari died. The 74 year old Italian Comboni missionary suffered a seizure during the celebration of morning Mass. With the help of the religious and the faithful present he was first brought into the sacristy and then to his room. Subsequently he was taken to hospital where he was declared dead. Only last Saturday, Msgr. Mazzolari had attended the ceremony for the independence of Southern Sudan.

Bishop Mazzolari was born Feb. 9, 1937 in Brescia. He joined the Comboni Missionaries, and on 17 March 1962 was ordained a priest. His mission brought him to Cincinnati, in the United States, where he worked among African American and Mexican miners. In 1981 he arrived in Sudan: first to the diocese of Tombura-Yambio, then the south-central Archdiocese of Juba. In 1990, Bishop Mazzolari became apostolic administrator of the diocese of Rumbek (South Sudan). That same year, he helped free 150 child slaves. In 1991 he reopened the mission of Yirol, the first of many, some of which subsequently had to be abandoned during the protracted Sudanese war. In 1994 he was captured and held hostage for 24 hours by guerrillas of the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army), the separatist armed group fighting against the Khartoum government. On 6 January 1999 he was ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II.

For 30 years, Msgr. Mazzolari lived courageously in the midst of his people by sharing the impact of war and poverty. He constantly appealed to the global community “not to forget that the people of South Sudan need a just peace in respect of human rights.” As a bishop he dramatically spoke out against the war: “Sudan is the poorest of the poor in Africa: 40 years of tribal warfare whose sole aim is the conquest of power and the acquisition of resources such as oil, water and gold, found in large quantities.” Then last Saturday he was among the leaders of civil society who addressed the jubilant people of South Sudan on the birth of the nation.