German bishop agrees to audit and apologises for uproar after Vatican visit
A German Catholic bishop accused by critics of being an autocrat and lavish spender has agreed to let an outside commission audit his finances after a rare week-long visit by a Vatican monitor.
Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, whose costly new residence is out of step with Pope Francis’s stress on simplicity and poverty, apologised for any “carelessness or misjudgement on my part”.
Tebartz-van Elst and Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, a Vatican diplomat examining the diocese that includes Germany’s financial capital Frankfurt, celebrated Mass together on Sunday before the Italian prelate was to return to Rome and report to the pope.
In his sermon after the Gospel, which told the parable of the Prodigal Son forgiven by his father for squandering his fortune, Lajolo stressed the Vatican’s concern to find a consensus in the deeply divided diocese.
“The final report of the commission, which will examine and include all costs, finances and procedures involved, will be disclosed publicly,” Tebartz-van Elst pledged in a joint statement with his cathedral chapter of advisors.
The bishop has disputed criticism of his management and pledged last month to explain the cost of the residence.
Lajolo’s visit marked a new Vatican willingness to correct mismanagement by bishops, who Francis has said should not be careerists but shepherds with the “smell of their sheep.”
Mismanagement by bishops and the Vatican’s slow response were at the root of sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church around the world for more than a decade. There are no sexual abuse allegations in this case.