“Strange vagabond of God” Bradburne on path to sainthood
On 1 July, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome issued a formal Nihil Obstat to enable the beatification of Franciscan missionary John Bradburne to proceed.
The letter was sent to Archbishop Robert Ndlovu, primate of Zimbabwe. In April 2019, Archbishop Ndlovu convened a meeting of Zimbabwean bishops, who gave unanimous approval to support the cause.
John Bradburne, a third-order Franciscan, was born in Cumbria in 1921, and converted to Catholicism in 1947. After settling in Zimbabwe in 1962, he was killed in Rhodesia in 1979 for refusing to abandon the lepers he had looked after for many years.
Since his death, Mutemwa, the leprosy settlement where he worked, has become a major pilgrimage centre. Each year, on 5 September, the anniversary of his death, thousands gather for Mass and process up the mountain where he walked and prayed.
Several healings have been informally attributed to his intercession, including a man in Scotland who was cured of a brain tumour and a South African woman who regained the use of her legs.
Bradburne famously referred to himself as “a strange vagabond of God.” After arriving in Zimbabwe in 1962, he told 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.
On 5 September 2019, the 40th anniversary of Bradburne’s assassination, a special ceremony will take place at Mutemwa, where the cause will be officially launched. Thousands of people are expected to attend, including many from outside Zimbabwe.
Celebrations will continue in London on 21 September, with Mass at Westminster Cathedral, followed by an exhibition, a talk on Bradburne’s life and Zimbabwean music.
Several of Bradburne’s relics will be on display, such as his Franciscan habit, typewriter and some manuscripts.
For more information, visit www.johnbradburne.com
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