British lay missionary could be declared Zimbabwe’s first ever saint, as the Catholic Church on Thursday began a three-day ceremony to determine whether John Bradburne qualifies for canonisation on the 40th anniversary of his death.
Bradburne worked among lepers in what was then known as Rhodesia, and refused to leave his post even as the civil war intensified.
The country’s Catholic Church will hear arguments for and against Bradburne’s sainthood.
Many Catholics from Zimbabwe and beyond make an annual pilgrimage to the site where he lived, worked and died, and several people say they have been healed after praying to him.
Bradburne arrived in Rhodesia in 1969, just before the war began and became warden of the Mutemwa mission station about 90 miles north east of Harare, not far from the border with Mozambique.
He worked at the Mutemwa Leprosy and Care Centre which was established 30 years earlier.
Even after the Catholics evacuated its white priests from north eastern Zimbabwe earlier in the year, Mr Bradburne, a tall, thin, long-haired man, who colleagues say spoke like a British aristocrat, refused to leave, and continued to attend to lepers, write poetry and play his harmonium in the tin hut in which he lived.
He was abducted and shot dead on a road in the bush.
Earlier this year, one of Bradburne’s colleagues at that time, Father Fidelis Mukonori, said he was in Mutemwa about two weeks before Bradburne was killed.
“I never thought at that time that this could happen,” he said. “It was the most shocking news.”
Father Mukonori was a senior Jesuit who had a special relationship with former President Robert Mugabe, and ended up mediating during the coup d’état in 2017.
Mr Mugabe, 95, who is a Catholic, was leader of guerrilla forces in Mozambique that killed Bradburne. Other senior church leaders were also killed by both sides in the war. – Source: The Telegraph