Reports monitored by calitown.com reveal that Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the Catholic Bishop of Limburg in Germany, has been suspended by the Vatican over claims of excessive spending.
Dubbed the “bishop of bling” by German media, the bishop was ordered to leave his diocese for an “appropriate period” after a meeting with Pope Francis in the wake of protests after investigations showed that he had spent $42m in the renovation of his official residence which was originally costed at $5.5m. The bishop – and his alleged spending habits – has become infamous in Germany, where many people pay tax to the Catholic Church. Calls were made for his resignation after he was accused of lying under oath about taking a first-class flight to India to visit the poor.
The bishop, 53, has apologised for any upset caused but denied any wrongdoing but the claims have caused controversy in Germany, where five centuries ago Martin Luther launched the Reformation in Europe in response to what he said were excesses and abuses within the Church. The issue over transparency in church finances has also struck a chord as German Catholics pay a tax, which brings in billions of Euros a year to the German church. “This is really a very, very sad story about the Church in Germany,” Christian Weisner of German Catholic Lay Organisation said.
The new residence includes a private chapel that reportedly cost $2.9m, a $20,000 bathtub and a $34,000 conference table.
“A situation has been created in which the bishop can no longer exercise his episcopal duties”, a Vatican statement said. It said a Church commission would rule on the matter, but did not say where Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, 53, would go or what he would do while the inquiry was held.
The head of Germany’s main lay Catholic group, the Central Committee of German Catholics, Alois Glueck, welcomed the Vatican’s decision.
It will be recalled that at the centre of Pope’s Francis’ message has been the need for the Church to connect to the poor and the deprived. Francis has criticised clerics who live too lavishly. He has told them not to live “like princes”, and he has himself chosen to stay in a Vatican guest house rather than move into the very much grander papal apartment.
Born in the village of Twisteden in north-west Germany in 1959, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst has described himself as being a loner as a child, preferring to read rather than help on his family’s farm. He was ordained as a priest in 1985 and named auxiliary bishop of Munster in 2003 by Pope John Paul II.
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