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Catholic Diocese of Rumbek: The death of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari
Communiqué of the Priests, Religious and Faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek on the event of the death of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari
Rumbek, July 16, 2011
We the priests, religious and faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek are shocked
and deeply saddened by the sudden passing on of our beloved Bishop Caesar
Mazzolari during Eucharist on Saturday, July 16, 2011. Gathering at Holy Family
Cathedral parish, Rumbek, we wish to express our deep and heartfelt appreciation
of his dedicated service and lifelong faithful witness to the Gospel among the people
of South Sudan.
On March 17, 1962, Fr. Mazzolari was ordained a Comboni priest in San Diego, USA.
For nineteen years, he worked tirelessly among Afro-American and Mexican mine
workers. In 1981, in response to the invitation of Bishop Joseph Gasi, he was
appointed by his Comboni Congregation to the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-
Yambio, South Sudan. He was then aged 44. In that diocese, he worked in Nzara
parish as curate and he was a sought-after Spiritual Director at St. Joseph’s Minor
Seminary at Rimenze, Yambio. From there, he went to Juba to serve as Comboni
Provincial of Southern Sudan for six years.
In 1990, he was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the war-torn Diocese of
Rumbek. He zealously set to work, re-opening missions and negotiating
humanitarian assistance and the freedom of very young slaves.
Communiqué: Priests, Religious and Faithful of Rumbek Diocese – South Sudan Page 2
Monsignor Mazzolari was consecrated bishop on January 6, 1999. He took to heart
the mandate given to him on that day by the Holy Father, John Paul II, namely, to
relieve “a people who have suffered too much for too long” from “the anguish of an
unjust war” and “to help them to restore the dignity of their human rights.” And
indeed, his years as Bishop of Rumbek reflect his faithfulness to this extraordinary
and challenging mission.
Bishop Mazzolari promoted formal and informal education through the
establishment of learning institutions. He coordinated the provision of health
services. He passionately responded to human need at every level. And to answer
the educational, health, pastoral and humanitarian needs of the geographically
vast diocese, he went beyond the borders of Sudan to seek help from religious
congregations worldwide. Today, thanks to his charismatic approach, every
continent is represented in the Diocesan personnel of Rumbek Diocese. He also
worked tirelessly to promote reconciliation among our people, always optimistic
and courageous in the face of often apparently insurmountable obstacles.
Evangelization was at the heart of his ministry which was nourished by his
commitment to a deep life of prayer. Like St Paul, Bishop Mazzolari spent his life at
the service of the Gospel, always assuring us that God was journeying with the
people of South Sudan. His fatherly care and compassion, generosity and selflessness
were sources of hope and comfort to all those he encountered.
Over the years, we have been inspired by his dreams for the people of South
Sudan, his pastoral initiatives, his extraordinary administrative ability, his
competence in leadership, his energy for fundraising and development, his simple
lifestyle and humility, his tenacity and patience and his unwavering dedication to
and confidence in God.
On Saturday, July 9, 2011, Bishop Mazzolari joyfully witnessed the birth of the
Republic of South Sudan when he presided over the official opening prayer during
the Independence Day celebration at Freedom Square in Rumbek. This event was
also a culmination of his unique pastoral initiative, Ten Steps to Unity in South
Sudan. A week later, God called home his faithful servant during Eucharist, at the
moment of consecration. Surely, it was a privilege from God for Bishop Caesar
Mazzolari to die in the presence of Jesus during the Eucharist, in his own cathedral
and among his priests, religious and faithful.
We are indeed privileged to have known him.
May Bishop Caesar Mazzolari rejoice forever in God’s loving embrace!
(Done in Rumbek, South Sudan on Saturday, July 16, 2011)