Hugh O’Flaherty

The name Hugh O’Flaherty crops up occasionally as you travel around Ireland. The statue below is just outside the walls of Killarney House.

What’s interesting about the statue is the glass eyes – not something you see every day.

Hugh O’Flaherty was a catholic priest who was working in the Vatican during the second world war. During the war, he visited POW camps in Italy. When Mussolini was removed from power, the prisoners of war were released but the german’s were intent on recapturing them. O’Flaherty, through a network of allies managed to conceal 4000 escapees. He wore various disguises when he was outside the Vatican and managed to evade the Germans who tried to assassinate him on several occasions. Once the German’s knew his identity, O’Flaherty started meeting his contacts on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica. The head of the SS, Herbert Kappler had a white line painted on the pavement at the entrance to St Peter’s Square and stated that O’Flaherty would be killed if he crossed it. Interestingly, after the war, when Kappler was in prison, his only visitor was Hugh O’Flaherty who eventually converted Kappler to catholocism and baptized him.

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