That was the ruling today from the Vatican regarding the controversial “Bishop of Bling” following months of embarrassing revelations on his lavish spending for a new residence. And yes, it was a justifiable concern: The Limburg bishop’s new digs cost an estimated €31 million ($43 million in U.S. dollars).
Vatican Insider reports:
A Vatican statement issued by the Holy See Press Office in German and Italian and read out by Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, reads: “With regards to the administration of the diocese of Limburg in Germany, the Congregation for Bishops has carefully examined the report of the commission set up by the Bishop and the Limburg cathedral chapter to look into who was responsible for the construction of the St. Nicholas Diocesan Centre. Given that the situation verified in the diocese of Limburg is such as to prevent His Eminence Mgr. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from a fruitful continuation of his ministry, the Holy See has accepted the prelate’s resignation, presented on 20 October 2013, and has nominated His Eminence Mgr. Manfred Grothe as Apostolic Administrator of the vacant see. The outgoing bishop, His Eminence Mgr. Tebartz-van Elst, will be assigned a different position at an opportune time. The Holy Father asks the clergy and faithful of the diocese of Limburg to obediently accept the Holy See’s decisions and to make an effort to revive a spirit of charity and reconciliation,” the statement concludes.
Last October, Pope Francis had ordered the embattled bishop to take time out from his diocese for a period of reflection, pending an inquiry into the refurbishment. Then in November, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst admitted to two counts of perjury. He had still hoped to return to Limburg; but today the Pope accepted his resignation and appointed a new Apostolic Administrator to assume leadership of the Limburg diocese–signaling that there will be no opportunity for return.
I wrote last October about speculation that the bishop’s mansion with its $500,000 closets might be turned into a soup kitchen. That initiative, though, was proposed not by the diocese, but by a nonprofit charitable organization. As yet no decision has been revealed regarding how the sumptious quarters might be utilized.
Today’s statement expresses Pope Francis’ hope that the faithful of Limburg will accept the decision with “docility and willingness to rediscover a climate of charity and reconciliation.” And Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, the head of the German Bishops’ Conference, told reporters he is committed to doing whatever is necessary to help the Catholics of the Limburg diocese to move on.