A GERMAN bishop has been suspended by the Catholic Church while a church commission investigates the expenditures on his $42 million residence complex.
Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the now-suspended bishop of Limburg, had ordered a $20,000 bathtub and $482,000 walk-in closets. a $1.1 million landscaped garden and plans for an 800-square-foot fitness room — as well as a cross to be suspended from the ceiling of a personal chapel, which necessitated the reopening of a renovated roof.
Pope Francis acted just two days after receiving Bishop Tebartz-van Elst in Rome, where he was summoned to explain himself. The Vatican issued a statement saying that Francis had been “comprehensively and objectively” informed about the events in the diocese and that Bishop Tebartz-van Elst “currently cannot exercise his office.”
German church experts said Bishop Tebartz-van Elst was unlikely to return to his post, even though the Vatican presented his suspension as temporary.
Other German clergymen have been chastised for lavish expenditures. Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich’s archdiocese spent around $11 million renovating the archbishop’s residence and another $13 million for a guesthouse in Rome.
Since becoming pope, Francis has repeatedly urged the church to strip itself of all “vanity, arrogance and pride” and humbly serve the poorest in society. Under Francis, priests living in luxury are no longer merely unseemly, but a scandal.
Still, even as Francis drives around Vatican City in a 20-year-old white Renault clunker gifted by an Italian priest, the head of the German Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, balked at the idea of giving up his company car, a BMW 740d.
“To me that car is not a status symbol, it is the office I use when I am traveling,” he said at a press conference..