Vatican suspends Germany's 'bling bishop'
When Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Germany traveled to India last year to minister to poor slum dwellers, he reportedly flew first class.
This year, renovations of the Roman Catholic bishop's church-owned residence in the city of Limburg ran wildly over budget to cover $620,000 worth of artwork, $1.1 million in landscaping and last-minute design revisions — $42 million in all, billed to the Vatican and German taxpayers, Hamburg's tabloid daily Bild reported.
Dubbed the “Bishop of Bling” by European media that have been avidly tracking his lavish lifestyle, Tebartz-van Elst was suspended from his post by Pope Francis on Wednesday in a clear sign that the new pontiff is serious about diverting resources from the “princes of the church” to the paupers in its congregations.
Tebartz-van Elst flew to Rome this month — on budget carrier easyJet, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported — to explain his finances to the pope after a Vatican delegation was dispatched last month to investigate what had become an embarrassing scandal for the church.
The bishop was forced to wait a week before getting his papal audience on Monday, from which he emerged to tell reporters at the Vatican that his fate was “in the hands of the pope.”
On Wednesday, the Vatican issued a statement saying Tebartz-van Elst was taking an unspecified leave because “a situation has been created in which the bishop can no longer exercise his episcopal duties.”
There was no word on how long the bishop will be suspended or any indication of where he will spend his imposed hiatus.
“Perhaps one could recommend to the bishop that he take over a diocese in Africa, where he can win back his credibility,” Heiner Geissler, a former secretary of the Christian Democratic Union headed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told ARD television.
The spending scandal has rocked the German government as well as the church hierarchy, as German churchgoers are compelled to pay a tax to the state that is used to cover government-administrated religious expenses. Berlin collects more than $6 billion a year for the Catholic Church from those who identify themselves as church members on their tax forms. A significant number have struck their names from the Catholic registry in recent years, though, in protest of the worldwide clergy sexual scandal.
Der Spiegel magazine, whose report on the India trip headlined “First Class to the Slums” prompted Tebartz-van Elst to sue the publication, noted in its most recent edition that the bishop now faces charges of making false statements in affidavits filed with a Hamburg court.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Johnston must reach Malkin in Moscow
- Hookah bar on tap for Greensburg
- Steelers are in familiar territory going into training camp in Latrobe
- Liriano, Snider lift Pirates over Dodgers
- New Penguins coach to meet with Malkin
- The Meadows to host 1st boxing card
- Greensburg pawn shop aids in arrest of home repair scam suspect
- Fox Chapel football putting in preseason work
- United States proposes tougher rules for moving crude oil, ethanol by rail
- Pirates notebook: Recovering Cole exceeds expectations in simulated game
- Moondog’s owner the force behind Pittsburgh Blues Festival