(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.