Nov 8, 2008

Hugh O'Flaherty - 'the Vatican Pimpernel'

Now, 40 years after his death, the Israeli Government is planning to award its highest honour on the Irish priest to whom the only memorials to date are the film, the Scarlet and the Black, starring Gregory Peck and a grove of trees in Killarney National Park. The Israelis are planting another tree in his honour at the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. The Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Authority also plans to confer the title, “Righteous Among Nations” on Monsignor O’Flaherty, who is the first Irishman to receive this honour, in appreciation of having saved the lives of thousands of Rome’s Jews from the Holocaust.
There is now a book about him by Brian Fleming, 'The Vatican Pimpernel the wartime exploits of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty
In Killarney National Park where a grove of Italian trees, planted in 1994, is the only memorial in Ireland to the Monsignor. Beside the trees is a brass plaque which reads, “To honour Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty (1898 - 1963). In Rome during World War II, he heroically served the cause of humanity.”

To mark the planting of the trees, Brendan Kennelly wrote a poem:

Hugh O’Flaherty’s Trees
There is a tree called freedom and it grows
Somewhere in the hearts of men,
Rain falls, ice freezes, wind blows,
The tree shivers, steadies itself again,
Steadies itself like Hugh O’Flaherty’s hand,
Guiding trapped and hunted people, day and night,
To what all hearts love and understand,
The tree of freedom upright in the light.

Mediterranean Palm, Italian Cypress, Holm Oak, Stone Pine;
A peaceful grove in honour of that man,
Commemorates all who struggle to be free.
The hurried world is a slave of time,
Wise men are victims of their shrewdest plans.

No comments: