It happened only days after history was made in the land where he had served as a missionary.
Just one week after welcoming the independence of South Sudan where he had been a missionary for three decades, Bishop Cesare Mazzolari of Rumbek died Saturday while celebrating Mass.
The 74-year-old Italian Comboni missionary had been working in South Sudan since 1981, enduring the nation’s 1983-2005 civil war.
On July 9, he presided over the official opening prayer during the Independence Day celebration at Freedom Square in Rumbek, which made South Sudan the newest nation of Africa.
“A week later,” a communiqué from the diocese announced, “God called home his faithful servant during Eucharist, at the moment of consecration. Surely, it was a privilege from God for Bishop Cesare Mazzolari to die in the presence of Jesus during the Eucharist, in his own cathedral and among his priests, religious and faithful.”
The faithful of the diocese expressed “deep and heartfelt appreciation of his dedicated service and lifelong faithful witness to the Gospel among the people of South Sudan.”
Cesare Mazzolari was ordained a priest in 1962 in San Diego, California. He worked with black and Hispanic miners for 19 years before being transferred to the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio, South Sudan, at age 44.
He would eventually serve as Comboni Provincial of Southern Sudan for six years. In 1990, he was appointed apostolic administrator of the war-torn Diocese of Rumbek.
According to the diocesan statement, “he zealously set to work, re-opening missions and negotiating humanitarian assistance and the freedom of very young slaves.”
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord …