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Tributes paid to Jimmy Saville, the man of faith

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Jimmy Saville, the much loved DJ who raised millions for charity, died just two weeks before his 85th birthday.

The bachelor lived with and looked after his mother whom he dubbed ‘The Duchess’,  until her death.  Known the world over for his loud tracksuits, catchy phrases, tinted glasses and huge cigar, Saville was also a devout Catholic and Papal Knight.  Pope John Paul II created him a Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory, an honour of which he was apparently immensely proud.

Born on October 31, 1926 in Leeds, Jimmy Saville was the youngest of seven children born to Agnes Monica (Kelly) and Vincent Joseph Marie Savile.  Sir Jimmy Saville started his working life as a miner in his native Yorkshire before running a series of clubs and working as a wrestler and DJ.  He presented the first episode of Top Of The Pops as well as his long-running show Jim'll Fix It.

Mgr Peter McGuire, former Vicar General of the Diocese of Leeds, told the Catholic Post that everyone knew Sir Jimmy Saville as a showman and flamboyant TV presenter. 

“Far fewer people knew him to be a man of wholesome goodness who lived by the faith he learnt in his family and in St Anne's Cathedral primary school.  The cathedral clergy were accustomed to his last minute arrival for confession on a Saturday evening after his shift at the LGI as a volunteer porter.  The cathedral community respected his frequent attendance at weekday Mass, always in a discreet corner of the church, so as not to distract children and young people from their following of the liturgy.  From time to time Jimmy would take up the collection in the absence of the regular doormen!”

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Catholic clergyman, spoke to the Scottish Catholic Observer of his friendship with the entertainer, while Tom Allen, financial trustee of Across, the charity that takes seriously ill or disabled pilgrims to Lourdes by Jumbulance, said he had been a patron of the charity and was a great loss.

Cardinal O’Brien said his friendship with Jimmy Saville developed over many years since he was assistant priest in St Patrick’s Parish, Kilsyth, along with the parish priest, the then Fr Denis O’Connell.  

“We were always trying to fundraise, not only for the parish, but for a variety of local and national charities and Father Denis had got to know Jimmy, quite simply because of Jimmy’s mother, ‘The Duchess.’  It was Jimmy’s fond mother who attributed the healing of Jimmy when an infant to her prayers to the Venerable Margaret Sinclair, a young Scottish nun.”

In 1973, Jimmy launched the Across Trust’s first Jumbulance and had contributed over many years to the success of the charity.  Although wealthy, he gave away nine tenths of his income to two charitable trusts and latterly, became famous for his charity fundraising and volunteer work.

Writing on the Diocese of Leeds website on Friday, the bishop of Leeds, Arthur Roche, said Saville was more than a celebrity.  Quoting the Catholic writer Clifford Longley, he said Jimmy was, “a man of faith, whose gift was to see the humanity even in the most marginal sections of society.  There was, he said, something very unselfconscious about Jimmy Savile, ‘an unwillingness to let go of the natural simplicity and humility of his own childhood personality, and the spontaneous pleasure of living without anxiety from one moment to the next.  That, said Mr Longley ‘is close to holiness'.”

by Susan Gately