Huge residence cost overruns cause new woes for Germany’s ‘luxury bishop’

By Reuters Staff
October 10, 2013

(Limburg cathedral by night, Januaray 10, 2009/Tilman AB)

A German Catholic bishopis facing  pressure to resign after it emerged that his new residence would cost 31 million euros (26.3 million pounds), over six times the original estimate.

Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, bishop of Limburg, was investigated by a Vatican envoy last month after protests in his diocese against lavish spending at odds with Pope Francis’s shift of the Church’s focus towards simplicity and poverty.

The soaring cost of the stately residence next to Limburg’s hilltop cathedral was made public by the diocese on Monday and was immediately criticised by churchgoers and officials.

“Such prestige projects simply don’t fit with Catholicism,” said local Catholic Raimund Champert.

“The Church, like the Pope, has a responsibility to be humble and lead by example. We are not in the Middle Ages anymore.”

Christoph Hefter, a lay member of the diocesan council, said: “The cost is shocking, it is beyond belief.”

Pope Francis, whose simple style contrasts with the more baroque tastes of his predecessor Benedict, whom he replaced in March, said last week he wanted the Church to serve the poor and strip itself of “vanity, arrogance and pride.

Tebartz-van Elst’s finances will be audited by a commission appointed by Germany’s bishops conference. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch has indicated a final report could be ready in about two months.

Rev. Reinhold Kalteier, head of the Limburg priests’ council, said “it is up to the bishops’ conference and Rome now” to get Tebartz-van Elst to step down.

Diocese spokesman Martin Wind said the 53-year-old bishop had appealed for trust and patience. “We will have to wait to see how the audit turns out to see where responsibilities lie, and who is to blame or not to blame,” he added.
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