News / Europe

Pope Banishes Germany's 'Luxury Bishop' from Diocese

FILE - Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst (R) attends mass during a meeting of German prelates in Fulda, Germany.
FILE - Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst (R) attends mass during a meeting of German prelates in Fulda, Germany.
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 Francis 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 overruns 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.
 
Major embarrassment

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.
 
FILE - Dark clouds hang over the controversial residence built by Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst in Limburg, Germany.FILE - Dark clouds hang over the controversial residence built by Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst in Limburg, Germany.
x
FILE - Dark clouds hang over the controversial residence built by Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst in Limburg, Germany.
FILE - Dark clouds hang over the controversial residence built by Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst in Limburg, Germany.
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.
 
German media, citing official documents, said the residence had been fitted with a free-standing bath that cost 15,000 euros, a conference table that cost 25,000 euros and a private chapel for 2.9 million euros.
 
State of limbo
 
The pope's decision on the fate of Tebartz-van Elst was unusual because it appeared to leave him in limbo, falling somewhere between a suspension and an outright dismissal.
 
This was apparently to buy time for the Vatican and German Church leaders to review the situation in the troubled diocese along with its broader ramifications.
 
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, head of the German bishops' conference, said he hoped the decision would herald “a space that will allow a return to inner serenity and create a new basis for dialogue.”
 
The “luxury bishop” story has deeply embarrassed a Church enjoying an upswing in popularity thanks to Pope Francis's mass appeal and following years of criticism for hiding sexual abuse cases among clergy.
 
Tebartz-van Elst, 53, is 22 years away from official retirement age in the Church and his saga represents an extraordinary management quandary for the Vatican.
 
Even if he eventually steps down from the diocese of Limburg, he would retain the title and rank of bishop, meaning the Vatican would have to find another post for him somewhere.
 
Last week, while the Vatican and the German Church were in crisis mode over the Limburg case, Tebartz-van Elst was kept waiting for eight days in Rome before the pope received him.

Push for transparency

The scandal has also put pressure on German bishops for more financial transparency in the entire Church in their country, forcing them to scrap centuries of secrecy over the reporting the value of their private endowments.
 
Alois Glueck, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics, the country's main lay Catholic group, said in a statement that all German Catholics had a right to “full transparency” about the building costs.
 
Germany's church tax, collected by the state and handed over to the churches, raised 5.2 billion euros for the Catholics and 4.6 billion euros for Protestants in 2012.
 
According to some media reports in Germany, the Limburg scandal has prompted more Germans to decide to formally leave the Church.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid