Ant McPartlin has paid tribute to Father Dermott Donnelly, saying he was “the kindest, wisest man I know”, after his death at the age of 55.
he Catholic priest and brother of McPartlin’s presenting partner, Declan Donnelly, died in hospital on Friday after a short illness.
TV star McPartlin (46) wrote on Twitter: “Father Dermott, you were the kindest, wisest man I know. Rest in peace my friend. You will never be forgotten.
“My thoughts, prayers and love go out to your wonderful family.
“The world has lost a special man. X A.”
The Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle was the first to announce the news of Fr Dermott’s passing on Friday afternoon, with Declan (46) paying tribute to his last sibling soon after.
He wrote on Twitter: “Heartbroken to tell you that my beloved brother, Father Dermott, @TweeterPriest sadly passed away this afternoon.
“We are all beyond devastated.
“Thank you for your messages of sympathy and support, they are appreciated DD.”
In 2015, Father Dermott celebrated his brother’s wedding to Ali Astall in Newcastle in a star-studded ceremony.
A statement from the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle said: “It is with great sadness that we have to inform you of the passing of Fr Dermott Donnelly, who died peacefully this afternoon in hospital.
“It was a big shock for all of us.
“Please pray for the rest of his soul and keep his family, especially his mother, in your prayers during this difficult time.”
Father Dermott recently celebrated his 30th anniversary of service to his parish and community, where he was best known for his youth work and youth ministry.
He was a clergyman at St Joseph’s Church in Stanley, County Durham.
Hexham and the Bishop of Newcastle, Robert Byrne, said “he will be greatly missed for his energy, enthusiasm and ability to engage with everyone who met him”.
He added: “This is especially true in his work with young people and youth ministry in the diocese, bringing many underprivileged and discouraged young people to Christ.
“He truly lived his faith and in the process gave so much to others.
“It is with great gratitude that we will remember him and all he selflessly gave.”
Bishop Robert noted that as Fr Dermott was born and raised in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, he and his extended family were well known to the local community.
He added: “Our prayers and condolences must go out to those who will be crying so hard at this time.”
The Catholic parishes of Stanley, Dipton and Byermoor also shared the news and asked parishioners to “pray for the repose of his soul”.
The group announced on Thursday that Father Dermott was “extremely ill” in hospital and had asked for prayers for him.
A similar message was posted on the Facebook page of Pontop Partnership, a group of 10 Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
Following news of his death, those who had known and worked with him shared an outpouring of loving tributes on social media.
During his career, Father Dermott supported the charity The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (Cafod), the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Cafod Education Officer Monica Conmee paid tribute to Fr Dermott on behalf of the charity: “We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Fr Dermott Donnelly, a great friend of Cafod who witnessed of burning passion and commitment to the fullness of life for all.
“Father Dermott chose to stand in the light and through his immense talent and gifts so generously guided thousands of young people to experience God’s love and light in their own lives, inspiring them to share this with others.
“Unforgettable mountaintop moments for so many young Catholics were the Flame events at Wembley Arena, of which Dermott was a beacon and driving force.
“We are extremely privileged to have worked closely with Father Dermott to make the voices of the poor and most vulnerable heard.
“Father Dermott will shine forever.
“Let the angels come and greet one of their own.”
In 2014, Father Dermott was featured on Songs Of Praise alongside CBBC’s Hacker T Dog to answer questions about the church that CBBC viewers had sent in.
St. Joseph’s Church in Stanley will hold a rally at 6 p.m. on July 8 to pray for Father Dermott.