Locals became hostile towards him, but he refused offers from other Christians to take him to safety.
Bradburne died on Sept. 5, 1979 when he was shot dead at age 58. He was buried in the Franciscan habit, as he had hoped to be.
For his compassion toward the afflicted, Bradburne has been called the "Damien of the 20th century" in reference to St. Damian of Molokai who cared for lepers in Hawaii.
"He did a good thing, and that is what it is about. The love the lepers continue to have for him, because of his sacrifices, is truly astonishing." Kate McPherson of the John Bradburne Memorial Trust told reporters in July.
In an interview with BBC, Fr. Fidelis Mukonori, who worked closely with Bradburne, recalled his friend's account of living with lepers, "From the day I set my eyes on these people, I discovered I am also a leper among my own people."
"Working for and with them I feel appreciated, that I am doing something good and they call me Baba [Father] John," Mukonori remembered Bradburne telling him.
"He arrived with few possessions, only love," Colleta Mafuta, 78, a leprosy survivor who knew Bradburne told BBC.
"The colony was filthy and the people were dirty. There was no medication, no clothes and people went hungry. He took care of everyone's needs - feeding people, and washing and bandaging our sores," she added.
According to Independent Catholic News, two people have claimed miraculous cures through Bradburne's intercession: a woman in South African who regained the use of her legs, and a man in Scotland cured of a brain tumor.
On July 1, the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved initial investigations into Bradburne's sainthood cause. On Sept. 5, Archbishop Robert Ndlovu of Harare celebrated a Mass at Mutemwa where Bradburne served, to mark 40 years since his death and to officially launch his sainthood cause.
A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA's African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA. This story was originally published Sept. 26, 2019.
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