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The Vatican on Wednesday suspended indefinitely a German Catholic cleric dubbed the “bling bishop” for his luxury lifestyle and for pimping out his official residence like some kind of rap star, at a cost estimated to be as much as £100 million.
“The Holy See deems it appropriate to authorise a period of leave from the diocese for Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst,” the Vatican said in a statement.
“The Holy Father has been continuously and objectively informed of the situation,” it said. “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 added that this would depend on an analysis of the finances of his Limburg diocese and the responsibilities for its high costs. The Bishop’s private quarters in a new diocesan building are reported to have cost some 2.9 million euros ($3.9 million) and included a 63-square-metre dining room and a 15,000-euro 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”. Critics within and outside the church have contrasted the premium architectural project with the more humble style of Pope Francis and asked how much good the money could do if used as aid in poverty-stricken African countries.
The Central Committee of German Catholics, 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,” its president Alois Glueck said.
The reformist Catholic group known as “Wir sind Kirche” (We are Church) have stated that “after the immense loss of trust caused by the behaviour” of the bishop it was “inconceivable” that he would again hold episcopal office.
The group also wants reforms in the selection process of bishops and the disclosure of their finances, saying: “the Limburg case must serve as a serious warning.