BY LUKE COPPEN -
THE CI-LURCH in England and Wales has paid tribute to the philanthropist Sir Paul Getty, who died last week aged 70.
Sir Paul, a legendary benefactor of British arts and culture who gave more than £100 million to good causes, was hailed as a committed Catholic and a generous supporter of the Church. He died last Thursday in London from a recurrent chest infection.
Cardinal Cormac MurphyO'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, has sent his condolences to Sir Paul's family.
Throughout his life, Sir Paul is believed to have given several millions of pounds to the Church around the world. His gifts were nearly always made anonymously, but often his generosity was revealed by overjoyed recipients.
The Catholic Herald has learned that he made sizeable donations to several prominent London churches. He helped to pay for a new roof and redecoration at St James, Spanish Place, and gave money to St Patrick's, Soho. He also supported the Bar Convent, York, the Franciscans at Greyfriars, Oxford, and the Catholic chaplaincy at Cambridge. Additionally, he helped to build or maintain
churches in Hexham, Northumberland, Wigan, Lancashire, and Cwmbran and Monmouth in Gwent. Outside Britain, he endowed churches in the United States, the British Virgin Islands, Martinique and Grenada.
The billionaire son of ail tycoon John Paul Getty, he became a Catholic in the early 1950s while in his late teens. It is understood that he was received into the Church in the Southwark archdiocese by the late Fr Gordon Albion.
In his 20s, he embarked on a life of indulgence and excess that culminated in 1971 with the death of his second wife, the Dutch actress Talitha Pol, from an apparent drug overdose.
In the years that followed, Sir Paul became a practising Catholic again and went to Mass regularly at the chapel at Stonor, the recusant country house near Henley-onThames, Oxfordshire. He would impress the priest by clearly having read the readings before he arrived and then following them carefully in his Missal. He also contributed significant sums to the nearby Church of St Edmund Campion in Wallington.
A priest-friend of the late philanthropist, who asked not to be named, said: "He rejoiced in giving. It gave him absolute joy."