The Telegraph reports…
“A German bishop nicknamed The Bishop of Bling after he reportedly spent £12,000 on a bathtub has been banned from his diocese by Pope Francis while an inquiry into his allegedly free spending gets under way.
The Vatican said on Wednesday that Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the bishop of Limburg, “could no longer exercise his episcopal ministry” after running up a 31 million euro (£26.4 million) bill for a new diocese headquarters.
Bishop Tebartz-van Elst’s upmarket ideas of interior decoration have clashed with Pope Francis’s calls for a “poor” church in which bishops would stop living like “princes”.
Splashing out on his new headquarters, complete with private apartments, the German bishop reportedly spent £295,000 on built-in cupboards and carpentry, £665,000 on the garden and £380,000 on art works.
The project was originally budgeted at 5.5 million euro but the cost has soared to 31 million euros (£26 million) and could rise higher.
The Vatican said Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, 53, would now spend “a period of time outside the diocese”, while a German church panel of inquiry investigated. A newly appointed vicar general, Father Wolfgang Roesch, will step in to manage the diocese in the interim.
Questions have also been asked about statements he gave in court about an expensive flight he took to India to visit poor communities.
Robert Zollitsch, the head of the German conference of bishops, has said he was “mystified” by the bills run up by his bishop for the work.
The bishop has defended his spending on the diocese, stating that it covered 10 different construction projects and has claimed he did not lead a “grandiose lifestyle”. But his appeals appear to have fallen on deaf ears after he flew to Rome for a meeting with the Pope on Monday.
The scandal has caused uproar in Germany, where the Catholic Church receives billions of euros a year from a church tax.
“Pope Francis’ decision offers the chance of a first step toward a new beginning in the Limburg diocese, because the situation can become an increasing burden for the faithful there and in all of Germany over recent weeks,” said Alois Glueck, head of the Central Committee of German Catholics, the country’s main lay Catholic organisation.
After his election in March, Francis quickly made parsimony a trademark of his papacy by turning down the chance to move into the Vatican’s large papal apartment, instead choosing a room at a Vatican residence that hosts visiting prelates. He has also called for disused monasteries to be opened up as homes for migrants and has ditched the Mercedes Popemobile for Fiats.
On Wednesday, as the Vatican suspended Bishop Tebartz-van Elst for his extravagant spending, Francis launched an attack on egoism in a speech to Italian prison chaplains at the Vatican.
Claiming that God was an inmate alongside Italy’s prisoners, Francis said, “He too is a prisoner, even today, imprisoned by our egoism, by our systems, by many injustices, because it is easy to punish the weak but the big fish swim freely in the waters.”
Francis went on to talk about phone calls he has made to prisoners in Buenos Aires who have written to him.
“Specially on Sundays, I have a chat,” he said. “But afterwards I think, why is he there and not me, since I have many and more reasons than him to be there? Thinking like this does me good. Even if we have the same weaknesses, why did he fall and I didn’t fall? For me this is a mystery that makes me pray and brings me closer to prisoners.”