11th May 2016
Honouring Msgr O’Flaherty: a man who saved lives
In November 2014, I posted a blog about Msgr Hugh O’Flaherty, an extraordinary man who, during WWII, took risks for the Church, and saved lives.
The next chapter in his story was written earlier this week, when family members, relatives of those he had saved and those who had worked with him, and others keen to keep alive his memory, gathered in the Vatican to witness the unveiling of a permanent memorial in his honour.
The ceremony, organised by the Irish embassy to the Holy See and the Pontifical Teutonic College (where O’Flaherty lived for 20 years) was extremely moving. A Mass in German, English and Latin was followed by a dignified and happy unveiling of the plaque in the Campo Santo of the College – a green space just beside the Pope’s Santa Marta residence and a stone’s throw from St Peter’s Basilica – by Msgr O’Flaherty’s nephew. The presence of the British, German, Irish and Canadian ambassadors was a reminder of O’Flaherty’s extraordinary work on behalf of escaped prisoners of war during the German occupation of Rome, and his deep humanity towards those of all sides in distress and need of help. The British Defence Attaché to Italy laid a wreath on behalf of a grateful United Kingdom.
An important element in the visit to Rome by the O’Flaherty Memorial Committee was an event at the College of St Isidore in Rome. There, Irish representatives of religious organisations spoke powerfully about their work in contemporary conflict zones – especially Angola and South Sudan – providing a presence, and saving lives, in places forgotten by the world. It was good to be reminded that this work by religious brothers and sisters goes on day in day out, often unsung, always vital. The permanent memorial to Hugh O’Flaherty – which you can visit in Rome – is also their memorial.