Ant McPartlin has paid tribute to best pal Declan Donnelly’s brother Dermott following his death.
The Catholic priest died yesterday, aged just 55, from a suspected bleed on the brain.
TV star Ant, 46, wrote on Twitter: “Fr Dermott you were the kindest, wisest man I knew. Rest in peace my friend. You will never be forgotten.
“My thoughts, prayers and love are with your wonderful family. The world has lost a special man. X A.”
Devastated Dec said yesterday: “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.”
The popular Geordie star, 46, raced to be by his sibling’s side in hospital after Father Dermott collapsed.
The tragic news was confirmed yesterday by the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle.
A statement said: “It is with great sadness that I 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.
“Funeral arrangements will follow when finalised.”
A source earlier revealed how devastated Dec raced home to his native north east to join the family at Fr Dermott’s bedside.
They told how loved ones had been praying the priest would “pull through” after he became “extremely unwell” in hospital.
The source said: “Dec arrived with other family members. There are around 12 of them there at the hospital.”
Fr Dermott conducted Dec’s wedding to Ali Astall in 2015 in front of a star-studded guest list – including the likes of Dermot O’Leary and Dec’s TV sidekick Ant.
The parish priest in Stanley, County Durham, was recently pictured outside 10 Downing Street.
He was invited by Boris Johnson to join religious leaders to pray for peace in Ukraine.
Fr Donnelly said: “It was a real privilege to join Christian leaders from across many churches at Downing Street and to stand together in prayer, the silence was so profound.
“It was a moment when the power of vulnerability encountered the vulnerability of power. The best weapon we had was prayer.”
Dec, the youngest of seven brothers and sisters, has spoken of his close relationship with his brother on a number of occasions.
He also previously revealed how considered following in his brother’s footsteps by becoming a priest.
He said: “Growing up was like The Waltons but in Newcastle.
“We all lived in a council house in Cruddas Park in the West End. The house had three bedrooms.
“You don’t need to be a maths genius to work out that three bedrooms and nine people equals a bit of a squeeze.
“The four boys were in two sets of bunk beds in one room, the three girls were in another and my mam and dad had the third room.
“My mam and dad, Anne and Alphonsus, came to Newcastle from Ireland in 1958.
“You’d often find the Donnelly clan at the Tyneside Irish Centre on a Saturday night and that was where I had my earliest performing experiences.
“Later on my brother Dermott trained to be a priest.
“When I was about 14 I did briefly consider following in his footsteps. Then, one day, I got the bus home from school and it was full of lasses from the local girls’ school, Sacred Heart.
“I knew right there and then that the priesthood wasn’t for me.”