Declan Donnelly is ‘heartbroken’ after the tragic death of his brother Dermott Donnelly at the age of 55.
The 46-year-old Saturday Night Takeaway host wrote: “I am heartbroken to tell you that my darling brother Fr 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.”
Father Dermott Donnelly was a Catholic priest at St Joseph’s Church in Stanley, Durham.
The Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle also released a statement following his death, writing: “It is with great sadness that we have to inform you of the death of Fr Dermott Donnelly, who died peacefully this afternoon in hospital.
“This has come as a great shock to all of us.
“Please pray for the repose of his soul and keep his family, especially his mother, in your prayers at this difficult time.”
Dermott had recently enjoyed celebrating the 30th anniversary of service with his parish and community, and in 2015 he had presided over the wedding of his brother to Ali Astall in Newcastle.
Hexham and Newcastle Bishop Robert Byrne said: “He will be sorely missed for his energy, enthusiasm and ability to engage with all who met him”.
The bishop added: “This is particularly true in his work with young people and youth ministry in the Diocese – bringing many disadvantaged and dispirited young people to Christ.
“He truly lived his faith, and in doing so gave so much to others.
“It is with great gratitude that we will remember him and all he selflessly gave.
“Our prayers and condolences should go out to those who will be grieving so strongly at this moment.”
During his career in the clergy, Donnelly had worked closely with the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), the international aid Catholic aid organisation for England and Wales.
The charity’s head of education Monica Conmee also paid tribute to Dermott.
She said: “We are hugely saddened to hear of the death of Fr Dermott Donnelly, a great friend of CAFOD who witnessed a burning passion and commitment to the fullness of life for all.
“Fr Dermott chose to stand in the light, and through his immense talent and gifts, so generously guided thousands of young people to experience the love and light of God in their own lives, inspiring them to share this with others.
“Unforgettable mountain-top moments for so many young Catholics were the Flame events at Wembley Arena, of which Dermott was a guiding light and a driving force.
“We are hugely privileged to have worked closely with Fr Dermott enabling the voices of the poor and most vulnerable to be heard.
“Fr Dermott will shine brightly forever. May the angels come to greet one of their own.”
A gathering was held to pray for Fr Dermott last night at St Joseph’s in Stanley.