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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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Zimbabwean bishops agree to open sainthood cause of John Bradburne


A British missionary murdered when he refused to abandon a leper colony in Zimbabwe is to be placed on the road to sainthood.

Cumbria-born John Bradburne is to become the latest Briton to be considered for sainthood after the Catholic bishops of Zimbabwe unanimously agreed to open his Cause for Canonisation.

A formal announcement is due to be made and it is likely that his Cause will be introduced on September 5, the 40th anniversary of his killing in 1979.

The body of the Franciscan tertiary was found by the roadside near Mutemwa just three months before the 15-year civil war known as the Rhodesian Bush War drew to a close.

Mutemwa was the site of the leprosy settlement that Bradburne refused to abandon in spite of the dangers to his life and the advice of his friends.

It is now visited by about 25,000 pilgrims a year who wish to pray to Bradburne there and is likely to be the venue for the opening ceremony of the cause.

Bradburne, the son of an Anglican vicar, was born at Skirwith in the Eden Valley, in the Diocese of Lancaster, in 1921 and he became a Catholic in 1947 while he was staying at Buckfast Abbey, the Benedictine monastery in Devon.

He was an accomplished poet who travelled widely before he arrived in Rhodesia in 1962 to work as a missionary helper. He was appointed warden of the Mutemwa settlement in 1969.

During the war, guerrillas ordered Bradburne to leave the country for Mozambique and he  was shot after he refused. The guerrillas denied responsibility.

The first stage of his sainthood process will take place in Zimbabwe and will involve the local Church carrying out an investigation to establish that he lived a virtuous life. A file will then be sent to the Vatican which will carry out further investigations into his sanctity before two miracles are sought to confirm his candidacy firstly for beatification, the when he will be called Blessed, and then for canonisation, when he will be recognised as a saint.

Although the process can take years, a number of inexplicable healings have been credited to his intercession already, including the cure of a man in Scotland from a brain tumour and of a woman from South Africa who had lost the use of her legs.

Bradburne has a huge following not only in Africa but also in Britain, and it includes such people as Frank Cottrell Boyce, the novelist and screenwriter who was behind the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony.

His sainthood cause will open as that of another Briton – Blessed John Henry Newman – will conclude with canonisation in Rome performed by Pope Francis.

The Victorian cardinal will be made a saint this year after the Pope decreed that the healing of a Chicago woman from life-threatening complications in her pregnancy was through his intercession.

The woman, a law graduate in her early 40s, was diagnosed in 2013 with a subchorionic haematoma, a blood clot on the foetal membrane.

She began to miscarry but stopped haemorrhaging the instant she prayed to Cardinal Newman for help. The woman went on to deliver a healthy baby.

Newman’s canonisation means he will become the first English non-martyr to be declared a saint since St John of Bridlington in 1401.

Bradburne will join a generation of post-Reformation Catholics of the English Church whose causes for canonisation are progressing.

Such figures, for instance, include Fr Ignatius Spencer, who is related to Princes William and Harry through their mother, Diana; Frances Taylor, “the Saint of Soho”, and Mother Elizabeth Prout, the foundress of the Passionist Sisters who was born in Shrewsbury.

They also include Mary Potter, Mary Ward, and Marie Adele Garnier, who all also founded religious orders, as well as Riccarda Beauchamp Hambrough, a Bridgettine nun who hid Jews from the Nazis in her Rome convent during the Second World.