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The Vatican on Wednesday indefinitely suspended a German cleric dubbed the “bling bishop,” whose alleged luxury lifestyle runs counter to the message of modesty that Pope Francis aims to impart in the Catholic Church.
“The Holy See deems it appropriate to authorize a period of leave from the diocese for Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst,” the Vatican said in a statement. “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 stated that this would depend on an analysis of the finances of his diocese in Limburg, in western Germany, and the responsibilities for its high costs.
The Central Committee of German Catholics, which brings together all the Catholic lay associations in the country, said it was satisfied with the decision to suspend the bishop.“Pope Francis’ decision offers a chance at a new beginning in the diocese of Limburg, where the situation has become heavy in recent weeks both for believers there and for the church in Germany as a whole,” Alois Glueck, the organization’s president, said.
The bishop flew to Rome last week on the low-cost airline Ryanair to explain himself to Francis, following accusations that he had bought an expensive ticket to travel to India and squandered money. His private quarters in a new diocesan building are reported to have cost some $3.9 million and included a 678-square-foot dining room and a $20,600 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.”