By Paul Burnell and Luke Coppen
Two MODERN spiritual giants from these Isles will take a step towards sainthood next week.
On Sunday, Pope John Paul 11 will declare Irish Benedictine monk, Columba Marmiom "Blessed" at a Mass in Rome. Two days later, thousands of pilgrims will gather at a leper colony in Zimbabwe to honour Englishman John Bradburne.
Dom Marmion, who will be beatified with Pope John XXIII and Pope Pius IX, gained a worldwide following for his best-selling books on the Benedictine spiritual tradition. His works — which include Christ, the Life of the Soul — had a profound impact on 20th century Christian spirituality. Born in Dublin in 1858, Dorn Marmion entered the Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium, where he served as Abbot from 1909 until his death in 1923.
Meanwhile, the Church in Zimbabwe has started preliminary investigations into the cause of John Bradburne, a former soldier and Anglican convert, who was gunned down by unknown assailants on September 5 1979, during the country's civil war.
Pressure for his cause has increased in recent years and climaxed during last year's 20th anniversary of Bradburne's death, which prompted pilgrimages by more than 51,000 to the leper settlement of Mutemwa that is permanently associated with him.
Fr David Gomall Si, secretary to Archbishop Patrick Chakaipa of Harare, confirmed a preliminary investigation, headed by Irish Franciscan Fr Pascal Slevin, started earlier this year.
He said: "I think what is interesting about this situation is that it is really an initiative of the laity."
The archbishop will decide whether to open the cause after the investigation.
"I think the outcome is certain to be positive," said Fr Gomall.
Fr Slevin said he hoped to be finished by August 2000. "But there's just so much. I am finding out more about him each day both what he did while he was alive and after his death," he said. "There are many people who have had extraordinary experiences and are convinced John has helped them.
"One man had a serious brain tumour and prayed to John Bradburne and knew as he prayed he would be well. This is documented and I have a letter from the man's physician who says that it looks like a miracle."
Fr Slevin, who lived with Bradbumc for nine months in 1962, also attributes his own recovery from a brain tumour to his intercession. He added: "He was an extraordinary man. What I would call a holy man. His whole life was a life of prayer."
British devotees will honour Bradburne with Masses at the Marian Shrine of Ladyewell, near Preston, on Saturday and Tuesday in the Jesuit Church at Farm Street, London.