FaithWorld

Pope Francis banishes Germany’s ‘bishop de luxe’ from Limburg diocese

(Limburg Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, August 20, 2012/Christliches Medienmagazin pro)

Pope Francis banished a German Roman Catholic prelate known as the “luxury bishop” from his diocese on Wednesday for spending 31 million euros ($43 million) of Church funds on his residence at a time when the pontiff is stressing austerity.

But the pontiff stopped short of dismissing him outright, a step which many German Catholics and the media had called for.

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, “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.

Germany’s big-spending bishop calls meeting with Pope Francis “heartening”

(An aerial view shows Limburg cathedral (R) and to the left the ensemble of the bishop of Limburg’s residence along the river Lahn October 14, 2013. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay )

A German bishop under pressure to resign for spending around 31 million euros ($42 million) on a luxurious residence said he had been heartened by a private audience with Pope Francis in Rome on Monday.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg arrived in Rome more than a week ago after cost overruns on his residence stirred anger among German Catholics and protests outside his cathedral, at a time when the pontiff is stressing the importance of humility and serving the poor.

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

(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.

New book asks: Could Germany have a Jewish chancellor?

(A huge Menorah at a ceremony marking the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, December 4, 2007. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke)

A new novel about a neo-Nazi plot to assassinate Germany’s first Jewish candidate for Chancellor has shed a timely light on the right-wing extremist violence that has plagued the country since 1990 and was swept under the carpet for years.

Political thriller “The Jewish Candidate” by British journalist David Crossland has been published just as Germany’s September election campaign is heating up and at the start of a trial of a neo-Nazi cell blamed for a spate of racist murders that went undetected for more than a decade.

Europe needs more appropriate powers to fight extremism: Germany’s Westerwelle

(Eniko Kovacs Hegedus, parliamentary member of Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party, delivers a speech to hundreds of far-right supporters during a rally against the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in Budapest May 4, 2013. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told Jewish leaders on Monday that the European Union needed better legal means to fight racism in member states.

Speaking amid growing racism against Jews and Roma in Hungary, he told the World Jewish Congress (WJC) assembly that the EU’s legal options to curb violations of democratic norms were either as weak as toothpicks or as strong as bazookas.

Germany passes law to protect circumcision, overruling court decision

(Protestors wearing overalls daubed with red paint on the genital area, demonstrate against male circumcision, in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin December 12, 2012.  REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski )

German politicians passed a law on Wednesday to protect the right to circumcise infant boys in a show of support for Muslims and Jews angered by a local court ban on the practice in May.

The ban – imposed on the grounds that circumcision amounted to “bodily harm” – triggered an emotional debate over the treatment of Jews and other religious minorities, a sensitive subject in a country still haunted by its Nazi past.

Germany resumes ritual circumcisions after bitter dispute

(Clothes traditionally worn by Muslim boys before their circumcisions, are displayed in the window of the “Kids Elegance” store in Berlin’s Neukoelln district, September 28, 2012. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz)

Shopkeeper Nevzat Cavan is rushing to meet orders for the white, fur-trimmed costumes worn by Muslim boys for their circumcision, relieved that Berlin’s city government has allowed the operations to resume.

For three months, the elaborate suits, capes and oriental slippers languished unsold due to a shock court ruling that raised the possibility of criminal charges being brought against families who had their sons circumcised.

Germany’s governing Christian Democrats call for gay couple tax equality

(German Chancellor and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party leader Angela Merkel waves before a party board meeting in Berlin, March 26, 2012. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

Members of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) have called on parliament to grant gay couples the same tax benefits as married heterosexuals, a shift for the conservative party that has fuelled anger among their Bavarian coalition partners.

Family Minister Kristina Schroeder has backed a call from a group of 13 CDU lawmakers who are appealing for a change in the law to put gay couples on an equal footing in terms of tax breaks, saying now was the right time for a change.

Merkel ally says Islam does not belong in Germany

(Supporters of ultra-conservative Salafist Muslim group hand out German-language versions of the Koran at the Potsdamer Platz square in downtown Berlin, April 14, 2012. The headline "Lies!" on the poster is German for "Read!" REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz )

A leading conservative politician said on Thursday that Islam did not belong in Germany, fuelling tension at a conference on integrating Muslims that also debated a controversial Salafist campaign to hand out copies of the Koran across the country.

“Islam is not part of our tradition and identity in Germany and so does not belong in Germany,” Volker Kauder, head of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in parliament, told the Passauer Neue Presse.

Joachim Gauck, Lutheran pastor from the East, elected Germany’s president

(Joachim Gauck stands in front of a TV screen with a picture of Germany's Federal Assembly after being elected by the assembly as president, in Berlin, March 18, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

Germans resoundingly elected Joachim Gauck, a former Lutheran pastor and human rights activist from communist East Germany, as president of the European Union’s largest country on Sunday, posing a potential headache for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In the largely ceremonial office of president, Gauck presents no threat to Merkel’s domination of national politics. But his moral authority, independence of mind and lack of party affiliation could make him an awkward partner for her government as it struggles to overcome Europe’s economic crisis. Gauck, 72, won 991 votes in the federal assembly comprising members of parliament and regional delegates. His main rival, veteran anti-Nazi campaigner Beate Klarsfeld, got 126 votes.