The Vatican has approved the Sainthood cause of John Bradburne, the British Franciscan missionary murdered in Zimbabwe by pro-Mugabe fighters.
The John Bradburne Memorial Society confirmed that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome issued a formal “nihil obstat” on 1 July, allowing the Cause to begin.
Bradburne, born in Cumbria in 1921, was shot in 1979 during the Rhodesian liberation war after he refused to abandon the Leper community where he worked. Accused of being a spy for the white regime, guerrilla fighters loyal to Mugabe are said to have offered Bradburne the chance to flee the country. He refused, knelt to pray and was shot in the back.
Since his death, miracles and cures have been attributed to Bradburne’s intercession, including a paralysed woman in South Africa who regained the use of her legs and a Scottish man cured of a brain tumour after praying to him. “Mutemwa”, the leprosy centre around 100 miles northeast of the Zimbabwean capital Harare, where he was warden and had built a small church, has become a pilgrimage site.
The Cause will be officially launched there on 5 September this year, the fortieth anniversary of his murder. There will also be a Mass at Westminster Cathedral in London two weeks later, where his Franciscan habit and other relics will be on display.
Bradburne was the son of an Anglican rector who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1947. He fought in World War II with the 9th Gurkha Rifles, escaping Singapore when it was invaded by the Japanese in 1942 and was recommended for the Military Cross. In 1956 he joined the Franciscan Order as a layman. Calling himself “a strange vagabond for God”, he travelled the world for 16 years before settling at the colony in Mutemwa, two years before the liberation war broke out.
Soon after his arrival in then Rhodesia in 1962, he is said to have confided to a Franciscan priest that he had three wishes: to serve leprosy patients, to die a martyr, and to be buried in the habit of St Francis.