Catholic Missionary Priest Injured in CAR Mine Explosion Undergoes Surgeries, Amputated

Fr. Norberto Pozzi. Credit: ACN

An Italian-born Catholic Priest has undergone numerous grueling surgeries, eventually losing his leg after he sustained injuries in a mine explosion in the Central African Republic (CAR).

The Catholic Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, has reported that Fr. Norberto Pozzi, a 71-year-old member of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers, was injured when the car he was traveling in drove over a mine, causing it to explode, on his way to Bocaranga, a city that is northwest of CAR’s capital, Bangui.

According to the charity foundation, Fr. Norberto was the only passenger that was seriously injured in the car that he was traveling in, during the February 10 incident.

In a Wednesday, February 15 report, ACN notes that the Missionary Catholic Priest ministering in CAR “has already undergone several emergency surgical operations”, adding, “In the most recent one, on Monday (February 13), doctors were even forced to amputate his left foot.”

The foundation says that the other occupants of the vehicle, including a French Carmelite brother and a Catechist, suffered only minor injuries.


The charity foundation reports, referring to Fr. Norberto, “His state of health, with multiple fractures, required a great deal of care, and the intervention of the military of the UN force present in the region was requested, which transported the missionary by helicopter to the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, located about 400 kilometers away.”

Fr. Norberto reportedly underwent a delicate three-hour surgical procedure, in which doctors tried to save his injured left leg.

With other surgeries unsuccessful, the Catholic Missionary Priest was transported to the UN hospital in Entebbe, Uganda, where he underwent another operation on February 13.

At the hospital in Uganda, unfortunately, the doctors “had to amputate his left foot,” ACN reports, adding that the accident occurred just over twenty kilometers from Bozoum, in the Diocese of Bouar, where the oldest Carmelite mission in CAR is located.

Fr. Norberto reportedly arrived in CAR as a missionary in 1980. At the time he was still a layman and worked as a land surveyor and bricklayer for eight years in the Carmelite missions in this African country. He later returned to Italy to be ordained a Priest and returned to CAR in 1995.

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The mission of Bozoum, from where Fr. Norberto left for the accidental trip, is the oldest Carmelite presence in CAR, ACN notes in the February 15 report, adding that the mission began on 16 December 1971 with the arrival of the first four missionaries. These were Fr. Agostino Mazzocchi, Fr. Niccolò Ellena, Fr. Marco Conte, and Fr. Carlo Coencio.

According to the charity foundation, which supports the people of God in troubled countries, the presence of landmines on CAR roads is a clear sign of the “atmosphere of great violence” in the country.

The height of violence in CAR was the 2013 removal of then-President Bozizé from power by the Seleka groups, which are majorly Muslim. “Since then, the Central African Republic has hardly known days of peace,” ACN says.

“The Seleka did not only remove the president from power,” the charity foundation reports, and adds, “They also provoked a huge wave of violence that is still present almost a decade later.”

“In the face of the Seleka's brutality, self-defense groups, known as the Anti-Balaka, sprang up everywhere. Chaos ensued,” ACN has reported.


The pontifical charity foundation blames the violence in CAR on the country’s vast mineral deposits, which have attracted dangerous mercenaries.

The mineral wealth, ACN says, has provoked greed, and feeds conflicts “sometimes commanded from very distant countries.”

“The Russian mercenaries of the Wagner group, who currently play an important role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have also been present in the Central African Republic,” ACN claims.

CAR is now characterized by violence, “by near civil war,” the charity foundation reports, adding, “Despite this, Pope Francis did not fail to visit the country in late November 2015, in which he opened the Holy Door of the Bangui Cathedral, thus solemnly inaugurating the extraordinary jubilee of mercy.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.