German Catholic Church takes “luxury bishop” scandal to “pope of the poor”

October 12, 2013

(Limburg cathedral and a bridge over the Lahn River, 19 June 2010/Berthold Werner)

The head of Germany’s Roman Catholic Church has said he would discuss with Pope Francis a scandal over a bishop who has been criticized for splashing out on a luxury residence and accused of lying under oath about a first-class flight.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, head of the German Bishops’ Conference, said he took the situation in the Diocese of Limburg very seriously. His decision to take the matter to the pope may raise pressure on the bishop of Limburg to stand down.

Francis’ response to the case is being closely watched, because it may show how far he will go to promote frugality and simplicity in a church plagued for decades by sexual abuse scandals and questions about opaque financial transactions at the Vatican bank.

State prosecutors said they wanted Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, bishop of Limburg which is near Frankfurt, fined for making false affidavits about a first-class flight to India.

“I am sure that the Bishop is dealing with this thoroughly and with the necessary self-criticism. Next week, I will speak to the Holy Father in Rome about it,” said Zollitsch on Thursday.

Prosecutors have been investigating whether the bishop lied under oath when he denied a report in Der Spiegel news magazine that he flew first-class to India to visit poverty projects.

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