LISBON, April 3 (Xinhua) -- Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa honoured Aristedes de Sousa Mendes, an unexpected hero during the Nazi invasion of France, with a Great Cross of the Order of Liberty on Monday, saying it was a "very special" award to be giving out during the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese consul in Bordeaux when Germany invaded France, issued thousands of visas and saved lives, despite an order from Portugal that no Jews or dissidents were to be granted passage.
The ceremony to honor Sousa Mendes on Monday took place at his hometown in Carregal do Sal, around 260 km north of Lisbon.
"This is a very special honor, as it is being given at a time in which tragedies of new wars and persecutions bring painful images of rootless people looking for a land of freedom, representing for Europe the worst tragedy of refugees lived since the Second World War," Rebelo de Sousa said.
Sousa Mendes, who died 63 years ago to the day on Monday, was also given posthumous honors in 1986 and 1995 by former president Mario Soares.
The medal was received by one of Sousa Mendes' grandchildren, Gerald Sousa Mendes, who said it would be kept by the Sousa Mendes Foundation for a future collection at Casa do Passal memorial museum.