The Four Times That Catholic Missionary Priest in Mine Explosion Escaped Death in CAR

Fr. Norberto Pozzi, a 71-year-old Italian Priest who recently lost his foot following an explosion in the Central African Republic (CAR). Credit: Agenzia Fides

Details have emerged of how Fr. Norberto Pozzi, a 71-year-old Italian Priest who recently lost his foot following an explosion in the Central African Republic (CAR) had survived three separate attacks.

In the latest incident, the member of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers was injured in the February 10 explosion 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.

Since the February 10 explosion, the Catholic Missionary Priest has undergone several grueling surgeries in CAR, Uganda, and finally in Italy where he was flown to have his leg amputated in an operation that was described as “very complicated”.

According to Fr. Federico Trinchero, a confrere of the injured missionary in Bangui, the February incident was not the first attempt on the life of the Italian-born Priest.

“In the first ambush, the bullets lodged in the headrest of the seat, in another the bullets reached the gearbox and, in yet another, he was robbed and risked being kidnapped,” Fr. Federico told Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples, Propaganda Fide.


In the March 23 Agenzia Fides report, Fr. Federico provided additional details about the February 10 explosion that left his confrere injured.

“Like almost every weekend, on the afternoon of February 10, Father Norberto left the Bozoum mission to go to one of the twenty-five villages he has been following for many years to celebrate the Eucharist,” Fr. Federico recalled.

He continued, “The destination is Bokpayan, 55 km from Bozoum, where he plans to stay for a few days. Father Norberto is accompanied by Father Igor and four workers because there is a school to be repaired. After crossing a small wooden bridge, and before crossing a second one, the car driven by Father Norberto suddenly hits a mine. The workers, seated in the back, are thrown into the air, and the car, destroyed at the front, crashes, immobilized in the ditch by the side of the road.”

According to Fr. Federico, the injured Missionary was rescued by two young men on a motorbike and transported to the hospital in Bozoum, some 22 km away.

He then had to wait overnight to be transported by a helicopter from the United Nations Mission in CAR to the United Nations hospital in Bangui.

More in Africa

In a February 15 report, ACN noted that the Missionary Catholic Priest had “already undergone several emergency surgical operations”, and was then transferred to Uganda, where he was admitted to intensive care at the Nakasero Hospital in Kampala.

At the hospital in Uganda, unfortunately, the doctors were forced to amputate his left foot.

Fr. Aurelio Gazzera, another confrere of Fr. Norberto, told Agenzia Fides in a February 21 report that the injured Priest had traveled from the hospital in Uganda where he had had the first amputation and was “on his way to Italy” for a second amputation.

Fr. Aurelio said that his confrere was not well, adding, “After a first operation in the UN hospital in Central Africa, our confrere was transferred to Kampala, where the doctors noticed that the foot bone was destroyed and the tissue in necrosis and had to amputate his left foot.”

“Now a new operation with another amputation above the ankle has become necessary,” Fr. Aurelio said, and added, “Since the operation is very complicated, a decision was reached to transfer him to Italy.”


Agenzia Fides reports that Fr. Norberto was almost thirty years old when he was informed that the Discalced Carmelite Friars were looking for a volunteer to work in their mission in CAR.

Norberto, who had reportedly just left his fiancée, also quit his job and in 1980 he arrived in Bozoum.

There, he is said to have begun building churches, schools, dispensaries, and a Seminary.

After eight years, he decided to join the Carmelite Order. He then went to Italy for his Novitiate and his theological studies.

Ordained a Priest in 1995, Fr. Norberto returned to CAR, devoting himself above all to the evangelization of villages in the savannah, schools, and the sick, announcing the Gospel in the churches he had built as a young layman.

(Story continues below)

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.