POPE Francis has permanently removed a German bishop from his Limburg diocese after his $43-million new residence complex caused an uproar among the faithful.
At the center of the controversy was the price tag for the construction of a new bishop’s residence complex and related renovations. Bishop Tebartz-van Elst defended the expenditures, saying the bill was actually for 10 projects and there were additional costs because the buildings were under historical protection.
German media, citing official documents, said the Limburg residence had been fitted with a free-standing bath that cost 15,000 euros, a conference table that cost 25,000 euros and a private chapel for 2.9 million euros.
In a country where Martin Luther launched the Reformation five centuries ago in response to what he said were excesses and abuses within the church, the outcry was enormous. The perceived lack of financial transparency also struck a chord since a church tax in Germany brings in billions a year to the German church.
The Vatican inquiry into the renovation found that Tebartz-van Elst could no longer exercise his ministry in Limburg.
Francis has called on his priests and bishops to be models of sobriety in a church that “is poor and is for the poor.”