Tribute to the Irish Scarlet Pimpernel

An Irish priest known as the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican has been commemorated in a play about his mission to save 6,500 prisoners of war and Jews during the Second World War.

Hugh O'Flaherty hid Jewish families in safe houses, convents and other religious houses around Rome during the war.

Monsignor O'Flaherty, who was named Righteous Among the Nations in 2003 and had a tree planted in his honour at Yad Vashem, led the Rome Escape Organisation, a group of volunteers who risked their lives to help others.

Having socialised with many prominent Italian Jews before the war, he started hiding them in the autumn of 1942. He gradually became an expert in disguises and evading capture, earning him his nickname.

Monsignor O'Flaherty died in 1963 aged 65.

His relatives, representatives of the Papal nunciature and the Archbishop of Westminster will attend a performance of Refuge in Rome staged by Irish Heritage, an arts body that promotes Irish culture, in London next month.

Ethna Kennedy, artistic director of Irish Heritage, said: "This tribute is being held to highlight the achievements of this remarkable man."

    Last updated: 12:32pm, March 17 2011