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Missions, Priest Wounded by Landmine in Central African Republic: Foot amputated

A missionary priest in the Central African Republic injured by a landmine explosion has his foot amputated

A Catholic priest of Italian origin, born in the city of Lecco, has undergone numerous and exhausting surgeries, until he lost his foot, after being injured by a landmine explosion in the Central African Republic (CAR)

The Pontifical and Catholic charitable foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reported that Father Norberto Pozzi, 71, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers, was injured when the car in which he was travelling drove over a landmine, causing it to explode, on his way to Bocaranga, a town northwest of the CAR capital, Bangui.

According to the charity, Pozzi was the only passenger seriously injured in the car he was travelling in during the accident on 10 February.

In a report on Wednesday February 15, the ACN said that the Catholic missionary priest who carries out his ministry in the CAR ‘has already undergone several emergency surgeries’, adding: ‘In the most recent one, on Monday [13 February], doctors were forced to amputate his left foot’.

The foundation stated that the other occupants of the vehicle, including a French Carmelite friar and a catechist, suffered only minor injuries.

Regarding Pozzi, the charitable foundation reported: ‘His condition, with multiple fractures, required a great deal of care and the intervention of the United Nations force present in the region, which transported the missionary by helicopter to the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, some 400 kilometres away.

Pozzi underwent a delicate three-hour surgery, during which doctors tried to save his injured left foot.

As other operations were unsuccessful, the priest was transported to the United Nations hospital in Entebbe, Uganda, where he underwent another operation on 13 February.

At the Ugandan hospital, unfortunately, doctors ‘had to amputate his left foot,’ ACN reported, pointing out that the accident occurred just over 12 miles from Bozoum, in the diocese of Bouar, where the oldest Carmelite mission in CAR is located.

Pozzi arrived in the Central African Republic as a missionary in 1980

At that time he was still a layman and for eight years worked as a surveyor and bricklayer in the Carmelite missions in the African country.

He later returned to Italy to be ordained a priest and returned to CAR in 1995.

The Bozoum mission, from which Pozzi left on his journey when the accident occurred, is the oldest Carmelite presence in CAR, ACN reported in its February 15 report.

The mission began on 16 December 1971, with the arrival of the first four missionaries: Agostino Mazzocchi, Niccolò Ellena, Marco Conte and Carlo Coencio.

According to the charitable foundation, which supports God’s people in countries in difficulty, the presence of mines on the streets of the Central African Republic is a clear sign of the “climate of great violence” that reigns in the country

The height of violence in CAR was reached in 2013 with the ousting of then-President François Bozizé by the Seleka groups, a Muslim majority. “Since then, the Central African Republic has hardly known days of peace,” said ACN.

“The Seleka did not just remove the president from power,” the charity said.

“They also provoked a huge wave of violence that is still present almost a decade later.”

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

The papal charitable foundation blamed the violence in the Central African Republic on the country’s vast mineral deposits, which have attracted dangerous mercenaries

Mineral wealth, ACN said, has provoked greed and fuels conflicts “sometimes commanded by countries far away”.

“Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group, currently playing an important role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have also been present in the Central African Republic,” ACN said.

The Central African Republic is now characterised by violence, “by a quasi-civil war”, the charitable foundation reported.

“Despite this, Pope Francis did not fail to visit the country at the end of November 2015, where he opened the Holy Door of Bangui Cathedral, thus solemnly inaugurating the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.”

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