Prosecutors in Germany have agreed to drop proceedings against the “bishop of bling”, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, in return for a payment of 20,000 euros ($27,000).
The Roman Catholic Bishop of Limburg was accused of lying under oath over his flights to India.
Claims that Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst spent more than 31 million euros ($42 million) on renovating his official residence caused outrage.
Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst was accused of lying under oath over his flights to India
Pope Francis ordered the bishop to take a leave of absence from his post.
An investigation into Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst’s apparently lavish spending is taking place.
Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst was facing prosecution in Hamburg over claims he gave false statements in a case against Der Spiegel magazine, which had reported that he took first-class flights to visit slum dwellers.
Church members in Germany pay a compulsory church tax out of their income.
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Vatican has decided to suspend Bishop of Limburg Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst – dubbed the “bishop of bling” by the media – over his alleged lavish spending.
The senior German Church leader is accused of spending more than 31 million euros ($42 million) on renovating his official residence.
The Vatican said it deemed “appropriate… a period of leave from the diocese” for the bishop.
The suspension comes two days after he met the Pope to discuss the matter.
“A situation has been created in which the bishop can no longer exercise his episcopal duties,” a Vatican statement said.
It said a Church commission would rule on the matter, but did not say where Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, 53, would go or what he would do while the inquiry was held.
The head of Germany’s main lay Catholic group, the Central Committee of German Catholics, Alois Glueck, welcomed the Vatican’s decision.
Vatican has decided to suspend Bishop of Limburg Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst over his alleged lavish spending
He said: “Pope Francis’s decision offers the chance of a first step toward a new beginning in the Limburg diocese, because the situation has become an increasing burden for the faithful there, and in all of Germany, over recent weeks.”
Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst – and his spending habits – had become infamous in Germany, where many people pay Church tax to the state. The tax raised 5.2 billion euros for Catholics and 4.6 billion euros for Protestants in 2012.
Calls were made for the bishop to resign after he was accused of lying under oath about his spending.
The bishop was criticized for a first-class flight to India to visit the poor.
But his official residence is at the heart of the criticism, after renovations were originally costed at 5.5 million euros.
German media are reporting that the residence was fitted with a bath that cost 15,000 euros, a conference table for 25,000 euros and a private chapel that cost 2.9 million euros.
The story has attracted heavy coverage and has stoked controversy among Catholics.
It was in Germany that Martin Luther launched the Reformation five centuries ago in response to what he said were excesses and abuses within the Church.
All this was bound to play badly with the new Pope, who has repeatedly expressed his disapproval of senior clerics whose lifestyles seem a little too lavish.
Pope Francis has also signaled his intention to clean up the Vatican’s finances, appointing a commission to advise him on reforms.
There is no surprise in Rome that the Vatican has ordered the bishop’s suspension from his duties while the spending row is investigated, our correspondent adds.
Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is the daughter of a Protestant pastor, said that she had expressed “hope that there will be an answer for believers, for people’s confidence in their Church”.
In Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst’s absence, the bishop’s diocese will be administered by Limburg’s vicar general, Wolfgang Roesch.
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German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst has flown – reportedly with a budget airline – to the Vatican in Rome to discuss his lavish spending.
Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst – dubbed the “Luxury Bishop” – is facing calls for his resignation after spending 31 million euros ($42 million) on his residence.
He is also accused of lying about the over-spend on the property in Limburg.
In Rome, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst will meet the head of the Catholic Church in Germany, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch. It is not clear if Pope Francis will intervene.
Since taking office in March, Pope Francis has urged the Church to promote a lifestyle of frugality and simplicity.
The allegations have stoked controversy among Catholics in Germany, where Martin Luther launched the Reformation in Europe five centuries ago in response to what he said were excesses and abuses within the Church.
Active German Catholics also pay a tax to the Church as part of their income tax, and many are shocked by the apparent financial waste – prompting some to stage demonstrations outside the bishop’s residence in Limburg, a town in Hesse near Frankfurt-on-Main.
Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, dubbed the “Luxury Bishop”, is facing calls for his resignation after spending $42 million on his residence
“The bishop has made it clear that any decision about his service as a bishop lies in the hands of the Holy Father [Pope Francis],” said a statement issued by the diocese on Saturday.
“The bishop is saddened by the escalation of the current discussion. He sees and regrets that many believers are suffering under the current situation,” it said.
Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, 53, is also accused of twice lying under oath about a flight he took to India on a trip to visit poor children.
He had filed a civil court claim against Der Spiegel magazine, which is based in Hamburg, for reporting that he had flown first-class on the trip.
After being forced to print a retraction, the magazine filed a legal complaint of its own. As evidence, it published mobile phone video (in German) of its interview with Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, in which he clearly stated that he had flown business class.
Asked by the German daily Bild about the high cost of his new residence, the bishop said: “I understand that the high cost of 31 million euros sounds frightening. Those who know me know that I don’t have a pompous lifestyle.”
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch said he had set up a commission to investigate the finances of Limburg diocese.
Robert Zollitsch said he would “speak to the Holy Father and the relevant people” about the issue in Rome.