News / Europe

    German ‘Luxury Bishop’ Flies to Rome for Decision on His Job

    FILE - German Catholic Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst is seen in Frankfurt in a August 29, 2013, file photo.
    FILE - German Catholic Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst is seen in Frankfurt in a August 29, 2013, file photo.
    Reuters
    A German Catholic bishop under fire for huge cost overruns on a luxury residence and alleged lying under oath has flown to Rome to meet Vatican officials and possibly Pope Francis to decide if he can stay in office.
     
    A spokesman confirmed on Sunday that Limburg Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst had departed but would not say when or how long he would be away. He declined to comment on media reports the prelate flew on a budget airline.
     
    Tebartz-van Elst has caused a crisis in the German church for building a luxury residence and office complex at a time when the new pope is stressing humility and service to the poor.
     
    “The bishop has made it clear that any decision about his service as a bishop lies in the hands of the Holy Father (Pope Francis),” said a statement issued by the diocese on Saturday.
     
    “The bishop is saddened by the escalation of the current discussion. He sees and regrets that many believers are suffering under the current situation,” it said.
     
    Focus on Francis's response
     
    An initial audit of the bishop’s spending, ordered after a Vatican monitor visited Limburg last month, revealed the project cost at least 31 million euros, six times more than planned.
     
    Tebartz-van Elst, whose baroque style was more in line with the conservative model of Roman Catholicism projected by retired Pope Benedict, has also been accused of lying under oath about a first-class flight to visit poverty programs in India.
     
    The head of the German Church, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, has said the scandal about the cost overruns and allegations of lying were hurting the whole church here and he would discuss it with Pope Francis during a visit to Rome this week.
     
    The pope's response will be closely watched as a barometer of how far he will go to promote frugality and simplicity in a church plagued for decades by scandals of clerical sexual abuse and opaque financial transactions at the Vatican bank.
     
    The Limburg case presents special problems because Tebartz-van Elst, at 53, is too young to simply be retired off as some bishops in abuse scandals have been. In the Catholic Church, a bishop retains his status even if he loses his office.
     
    State prosecutors in Hamburg said last week they wanted the bishop to be fined for making false affidavits about the first-class flight to India while denying a report about it by the magazine Der Spiegel.
     
    Tebartz-van Elst said he flew business class but the Hamburg-based weekly has made public a mobile phone video recording of a conversation which triggered action by prosecutors.
     
    Costs set to rise?
     
    The Welt am Sonntag newspaper said on Sunday the final price tag for the residence and office complex next to Limburg's hilltop Romanesque cathedral could run to as much as 40 million euros because of costs which were not in the earlier estimate.
     
    The German bishops' conference, which set up a special commission to investigate Limburg's books, is due to issue a final report before the end of the year.
     
    The “luxury bishop” story has become front-page news in Germany, deeply embarrassing a church enjoying an upswing thanks to Pope Francis's popularity after years of criticism for hiding sexual abuse cases among clergy.
     
    Tebartz-van Elst, once considered a possible future cardinal, has angered many Catholic priests and lay people in Germany and become the butt of jokes in the media.
     
    One satirical article in the daily Die Welt wrote that leading European luxury goods makers had stepped in as sponsors to help defray the cost of his stately residence.
     
    The bishop, who has been openly accused of authoritarian and secretive management by his closest advisers, apologized after the Vatican monitor's visit last month for “any carelessness or misjudgment”.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora