The Vatican on Wednesday suspended a scandal-tainted German Catholic cleric dubbed the “bling bishop” for his luxury lifestyle, despite multiple calls for the prelate to be dismissed.
“The Holy See deems it appropriate to authorise a period of leave from the diocese for Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst,” the Vatican said in a statement.
“The Holy Father has been continuously and objectively informed of the situation,” it said.
“A situation has been created in which the bishop can no longer exercise his episcopal duties.”
It did not specify how long the bishop would have to stay away but added that this would depend on an analysis of the finances of his Limburg diocese and the responsibilities for its high costs.
The bishop flew to Rome last week with low-cost airline Ryanair to explain himself to Francis — following accusations he took a business-class ticket on a trip to India and squandered money.
His private quarters in a new diocesan building are reported to have cost some 2.9 million euros ($3.9 million) and included a 63-square-metre dining room and a 15,000 euro bathtub — using the revenue from a religious tax in Germany.
The reports have caused a scandal in Germany and sparked calls for greater transparency in Catholic Church finances — a reform aim of the new pope who has called for a “poor Church for the poor”.
The 53-year-old bishop is under fire over the ostentatious building project in the ancient town of Limburg, which includes a museum, conference halls, a chapel and private apartments.
UPDATE: From CNS, which notes that this is technically a “leave of absence”:
Pope Francis has authorized a leave of absence for a German bishop at the center of controversy over expenditures for his residence and diocesan center.
“A situation has been created in which Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst currently cannot exercise his episcopal ministry,” said a statement Oct. 23 from the Vatican press office.
Pope Francis, after being “continually, broadly and objectively informed” about the situation in the Diocese of Limburg, has authorized “a period of leave outside the diocese,” effective immediately, the statement said.