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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

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.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid