Pope banishes Germany's 'luxury bishop' from diocese

Wed Oct 23, 2013 12:06pm EDT
 
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis banished a German Roman Catholic prelate known as the "luxury bishop" from his diocese on Wednesday for spending 31 million euros ($43 million) of Church funds on his residence at a time when the pontiff is stressing austerity.

But the pontiff stopped short of dismissing him outright, a step which many German Catholics and the media had called for.

In a highly unusual move, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg was ordered to leave his diocese while an investigation and audit into cost over-runs is held, a Vatican statement said.

The bishop, who met the pope on Monday, "was currently not in a position to carry out his episcopal ministry". It said he should stay outside his diocese "for a period," and that it would be administered in his absence by a vicar-general.

The issue has proven a major embarrassment for the pope, who has called for a more austere Church that sides with the poor. He has told bishops not to live like princes, and has also promised to clean up the murky finances of the Vatican bank.

The German media has dubbed Tebartz-van Elst "the luxury bishop" after an audit of his spending, ordered after a Vatican monitor visited Limburg last month, revealed the residence cost at least 31 million euros - six times more than planned.

He has apologized for any "carelessness or misjudgment on my part", but denies wrongdoing.

Tebartz-van Elst has also been accused by German magistrates of lying under oath about a first-class flight to visit poverty programs in India.   Continued...

 
Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst makes his inaugural address during a service of worship in Limburg Cathedral January 20, 2008. REUTERS/Wolfgang Radtke/KNA-Bild