Former leprosy patient visiting UK says missionary set to be the first British saint in 400 years was continuing the work Jesus started

Former leprosy patient, Dan Izzett, has described his visits to the leprosy community in Zimbabwe where the missionary, set to become the first British saint since the martyrs of the 16th century, cared for some of the country’s most unwanted and shunned people.

Norfolk public schoolboy, World War II Gurkha hero and PoW, John Bradburne, was warden at the Mutemwa leprosy colony in Zimbabwe when he was caught up in the Rhodesian Bush War in 1979.

Refusing to abandon the colony, despite being given the opportunity to escape by his captors, he was brutally murdered at the age of 58 and buried, wearing a Franciscan habit, outside the capital city Salisbury, now Harare.

Bradburne, the son of an Anglican rector in Westmorland who converted to Catholicism in 1947, was reported to have said he had only three wishes – to help people affected by leprosy, die a martyr and be buried in a habit of the Franciscan order.

Mourners at his funeral said they saw drops of blood beneath his coffin despite no blood being found inside, as a miraculous sign and evidence for his canonization. 
 
With the support of the Archbishop of Harare, the Most Reverend Robert Ndlovu, campaigners, including Bradburne’s niece, Celia Brigstocke are funding a Vatican investigation to justify his canonization.

Former leprosy patient, Dan Izzett, 71, was Country Leader for The Leprosy Mission in Zimbabwe, which funded healthcare, farming and water supplies to the Mutemwa leprosy community where Bradburne served and was murdered.
  
Mutemwa remains home to leprosy-affected people in addition to supporting the homeless.

“I remember the leprosy community at Mutemwa well,” said Dan.
 
“The patients there were some of the country’s most unwanted and shunned people.”
   
“I believe John was an inspiration to the community. His refusal to abandon the patients during the civil war, despite the terrible risk to himself, made them feel valued and protected.”

“John was simply continuing the work that Jesus started as we read in the Gospels. Jesus gave a clear example of reaching out to the marginalised in society and the oppressed.”
   
While leprosy is a mildly-infectious and, since 1982, curable disease associated with extreme poverty, Dan, a recently retired pastor, was unusual to have caught leprosy as an educated man who had never been subjected to poverty.

Dan, who lost his lower leg because of leprosy-caused nerve damage, said that it is the stigma surrounding leprosy that needs to be tackled for people to come forward to seek treatment before they become disabled.

Currently visiting his two sons and six grandchildren in Somerset, Dan and his wife Babs, 69, who was also treated for leprosy but, thankfully before she developed disabilities, said: “After 10 years of displaying symptoms of leprosy and baffling doctors, I was finally diagnosed with the disease. I was newly married and thought it was the honourable thing to tell Babs that I would understand if she wanted to have the marriage annulled. After we’d been married for seven years, Babs was diagnosed with leprosy.”

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