THE pope has temporarily expelled a German bishop after a £26 million scandal over the cost of a new residence, but he refused to remove him.
The Vatican did not say how long Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, dubbed “the bishop of bling” would be kept away from the diocese of Limburg. But it said Limburg’s newly named vicar general, the Rev. Wolfgang Roesch, would run things during his “period of time away”.
The Vatican said the situation in the diocese had become such that Bishop Tebartz-van Elst “could no longer exercise his episcopal ministry.”
The decision was taken after Francis met the bishop and the head of the German bishops’ conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch.
At the centre of the controversy is the cost of building a new bishop’s residence complex and related renovations. Bishop Tebartz-van Elst has said the bill was actually for 10 projects and there were additional costs because of regulations on buildings under historical protection.
The Limburg scandal has been front-page news for weeks in the country where Martin Luther launched the Reformation five centuries ago in response to what he said were excesses and abuses within the church. The issue over transparency in church finances has also struck a chord among German Catholics since a special tax in Germany provides billions of euros revenue a year to the church.
The Vatican stressed that Francis took the decision based on continuous and “objective” information, suggesting it was not being swayed by the popular outcry over the scandal.