The huge and growing devotion to John Bradburne is an indicator that the murdered Franciscan missionary could well become Zimbabwe’s first saint. That, at least, is the view of the postulator of his Cause for canonisation, Enrico Solinas.
In a message read out at a reception following a Mass in London to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Bradburne’s death in 1979, Solinas said he was overwhelmed by the number of people, including 15,000 of the poorest, who turned out to attend the opening of the Cause in the Zimbabwean village of Mutemwa on September 5.
Bradburne, he said, taught that “what really matters is God”, and the “proof” of his love for Jesus was the vast number of people now devoted to him. He described Bradburne as a man who “gave his life for the poorest of this earth because he saw in them Jesus Christ”.
Solinas said that just a year ago the opening of the Cause seemed a dream, adding: “But God doesn’t play around with his saints. God wanted this.”
The Mass almost filled Westminster Cathedral, with many pilgrims from Zimbabwe showing 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.”
The 700-strong 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.
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