TRIBUTES have been paid to a former long-serving parish priest described as a “true gentleman".

Father Bill East was the parish priest of St Joseph’s in Pickering for 18 years. He died on July 1, aged 72, after a long illness.

Father Bill spent 11 years at St Luke’s Parish Church in Pallion, Sunderland, from 1983 to 1994, before being received into the Catholic Church along with his wife, Betty.

He was ordained at Our Lady’s in York, and served in the parish before spending 18 years in Pickering.

Halfway through his time in Pickering he was given the title of parish priest, rather than administrator and Betty said that small change meant a great deal to him.

An accomplished Latin scholar, Father Bill was asked by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) to work on the new translation of the Missal.

ICEL executive director Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth said: “I was always so impressed by his gentle manner, his continual willingness to serve, and his powerful love for the Church and her liturgy.”

Father Bill retired from St Joseph’s in May 2018 and grateful parishioners held a party in his honour.

In August 2019, Father Bill and Betty celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a trip to London with family and friends, followed the week after by Mass at St Aelred’s Church in York, where Father Bill Serplus presented them with a papal blessing.

“It was such a sad moment when I heard Father Bill had died,” said vicar general Monsignor Gerard Robinson.

“I spoke to him a couple of days ago and it was lovely to have a chat and for us to give each other a blessing as well and say we would keep each other in prayer.

“Bill was a true gentleman with a quick wit and it was always a joy if I knew that father Bill was going to be on retreat with the diocesan priests.

“We will miss him and our thoughts and prayers are with Betty, Bill’s sons and the whole family at this sad time.”

Father Bill’s funeral will be at St Aelred’s on Tuesday, July 14. Due to the present situation, only be 30 people allowed to attend and it will not be possible to have a concelebrated Mass at this time. When the circumstances allow, a memorial Mass will be held for Father Bill at St Joseph’s.