Irish Catholic: Push for honour for heroic Irish priest

Below is an excerpt of an article in the Irish Catholic about the 5th Annual Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Weekend and the growing pressure for official State recognition for the heroic exploits of this Irish priest during the second world war.

“Pressure is growing for official State recognition for a heroic Irish priest who has already been honoured by several other countries for his wartime exploits saving the lives of thousands of Jews and allied Prisoners of War.
Kerryman Msgr Hugh O’Flaherty – often described as the Vatican’s Scarlet Pimpernel – ran an elaborate network of ‘safe houses’ in Rome during the Nazi occupation of the Eternal City.

Following the end of World War II, he was created a Commander of the British Empire and awarded the US Congressional Medal of Freedom for his efforts which are estimated to have saved thousands from the horrors of the Nazi death camps. Msgr O’Flaherty, aided by a secretive network, hid people in religious houses scattered across the city of Rome and further afield in the hills around the city.

Now, Taoiseach Enda Kenny as well as Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland Archbishop Charles Brown and Britain’s Ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott will attend a special commemorative weekend in the priest’s native Kerry next month. Organisers of the 5th Annual Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Weekend hope that the presence of the Taoiseach will highlight the lack of official recognition given in his homeland to the heroic priest.

The weekend is organised each year to raise awareness for the humanitarian deeds of Msgr O’Flaherty and his colleagues in the Rome ‘escape line’, which directly saved over 6,500 prisoners of war, Jews and Italian anti-Nazis from arrest or re-capture and almost certain death, during the German occupation of Rome.”

By Garry O’Sullivan

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