Vatican says Savile honour 'died with him'

 

The Vatican has said a papal knighthood bestowed on late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile died with him.

 

The statement came after the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England wrote to ask whether it was possible to strip Savile of the honour because of his role in a sex abuse scandal, a church spokesman said today.

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols wrote to the Holy See in the light of "deeply shocking" allegations and in recognition of the "deep distress" suffered by any abuse victims, a spokesman for the archbishop said.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said there was no way to revoke a knighthood posthumously since there is no permanent list of people who have received it in the past.

"The honour dies with the individual," he said. "It's not possible to strike a deceased person off a list that does not exist," Mr Lombardi said. He added that the Vatican was "deeply saddened that a person who has been stained by such acts could in his lifetime have been proposed for an honour by the Holy See".

The papal knighthood is one of the highest honours bestowed by the pope and is reserved for lay people and the military. British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, which first reported on the letter, said Savile had been made a knight by the late Pope John Paul II in 1990 for his charity work.

Allegations that Savile, a cigar-chomping former DJ who was one of the BBC's top presenters, sexually abused young girls for decades has thrown the publicly-funded BBC into disarray. On Thursday, police said some 300 victims had come forward and that they were preparing to make arrests.

Savile, a Catholic active in charitable works, died last year aged 84.

Savile's nephew Roger Foster said the family had been unaware of the TV host's "darker side" and was struggling to reconcile the image of the man they loved with the allegations of abuse of young girls.

"How could the person we thought we knew and loved do such a thing?" said the statement. "We recognise that even our own despair and sadness does not compare to that felt by the victims."

The allegations against Savile first emerged in an expose on the rival British TV channel ITV. The head of the BBC's governing body called the allegations a "tsunami of filth", and police said Savile was "undoubtedly" one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders ever.

BBC Director General George Entwistle has said the broadcaster has been damaged by the scandal.

In a programme broadcast on Ulster Television (UTV) in 2006, the former star also boasted about how the Press would never find any dirt on him.

He said: “There isn’t any. I’m very boring. Any tabloid journalist will tell you two things — one, I’m very boring, two, I don’t do drugs, I don’t do under-age sex or any of them things that you read in the papers today.

“But they still like coming round to talk to me. Cos they know I will give them an angle they have never had before.”

Agencies

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