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Limburg Residents React To Pope's Decision To Ban "Luxury Bishop" From Diocese

posted 23 Oct 2013, 08:11 by Mpelembe   [ updated 23 Oct 2013, 08:12 ]

Germans in Limburg say that it is clear that the controversial Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst cannot return to Limburg because there is too much "scorched earth" and that "it is enough"

LIMBURG, GERMANY (OCTOBER 23, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Limburg residents are were not surprised on Wednesday (October 23) by Pope Francis banishing a German Roman Catholic prelate known as the "luxury bishop" for spending 31 million euros ($42.70 million) of Church funds on his residence at a time when the pontiff is stressing austerity.

In a highly unusual move, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg was ordered to leave his diocese while an investigation and audit into cost over-runs is held.

A Vatican statement said the bishop, who met the pope on Monday (October 21) to discuss the scandal in the German Church, "was currently not in a position to carry out his episcopal ministry". It said he should stay outside his diocese "for a period," and that it would be administered in his absence by a vicar-general.

The issue has proven a major embarrassment for the pope, who has called for a more austere Church that sides with the poor and has told bishops not to live "like princes".

Passers-by in Limburg thought the decision not to overlook Tebartz-van Elst's spend-thrift was the right one. "I think it is right that with this measure the situation (here) becomes calmer," said Bernd Heumann and continued: "Because the emotions are quite high. And we have to wait and see what will happen but I think that he (Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst) will very likely not return to Limburg after the investigations are concluded. I think there has been too much scorched earth." And Guenter Rasch agreed that Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst cannot remain bishop in Limburg "because there is nothing we can tell the people (to appease them)."

The German media has dubbed Tebartz-van Elst "the luxury bishop" after an initial audit of his spending, ordered after a Vatican monitor visited Limburg last month, revealed the project cost at least 31 million euros - six times more than planned.

Tebartz-van Elst, whose baroque style has appeared more in line with the conservative model of Roman Catholicism projected by retired German-born Pope Benedict, has also been accused by German magistrates of lying under oath about a first-class flight to visit poverty programmes in India.

German media, citing official documents, said the 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.

And one passer-by voiced the misgivings of many Limburgers: "All in all, it is enough. At least for me."