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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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‘God wanted this’: Zimbabwean bishops open John Bradburne sainthood Cause


The bishops of Zimbabwe have opened the Cause for the Canonisation of John Bradburne, a British war veteran murdered while caring for lepers in their country.

More than 15,000 people joined 408 priests, four bishops and an archbishop for the ceremony in Mutemwa, the leprosy settlement where Bradburne worked for 10 years.

The date coincided with the 40th anniversary of his murder in 1979, during the closing weeks of the country’s civil war.

Enrico Solinas, postulator for the Cause, said afterwards that he believed Bradburne could become Zimbabwe’s first saint, and also possibly the first English layman to be recognised as a saint since the 1970 when such figures as Ss Margaret Ward, Margaret Clitheroe, Anne Line and John Rigby were included among the 40 martyrs of England and Wales.



In a message addressed to more than 700 people who attended a Mass in Westminster Cathedral to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Bradburne’s death, Solinas said that the large and flourish cult bore witness to his sanctity.

He said he had also become deeply impressed by Bradburne’s example and teaching, principally that “what really matters is God”.

“The only thing that will last when our life ends is the love we will give for free to others, especially to those who have nothing” he said.

“Only by loving does the heart fill up with true and everlasting joy,” he said, adding that if Bradburne had not shown such love then continuing outpourings of devotion by so many people could not have been possible.

“It was the Lord who sowed that love in him and that same Lord who led us here today celebrating not only the 40th anniversary of the death of a man but the life of a man who gave his life for the poorest of this earth because he saw in them Jesus Christ.

“That’s why, as postulator, I asked that the Lord gave me as a gift the same eyes that John looked at all who were around him.”

He continued: “Only a year ago the opening of the Cause of Canonisation was a dream but God doesn’t play around with his saints, God wanted this.”

The Mass in Westminster was attended by many pilgrims from Zimbabwe who showed their love for Bradburne sometimes in clothes bearing his name, face and pictures of bees, in tribute to a miracle he is said to have worked with them.

One visitor, Emelda Madondo from Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, said: “He came all the way from here to help our people, he loved the poor and the lepers. He was truly a man of God. He was humble, he reduced himself to nothing to care for the poor. He is a saint. We are praying every day for his intercession.”



Another, Rugare Murwira, also from Harare, said: “He was the one who stopped the spread of leprosy in our country. He used to write back home to England, seeking medication for the leprosy patients.”

The congregation also included relatives of Bradburne, some of whom had flown in from Canada.

Bradburne, the son of a Cumbrian vicar, was a wartime jungle fighter who converted to the Catholic faith in 1947. He embraced a life of poverty, became a Franciscan tertiary and served lepers in Mutemwa until he was shot in the back during the closing weeks of Zimbabwe’s civil war.



(Photos by Simon Caldwell and courtesy of Kate Macpherson of the John Bradburne Memorial Society)