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German bishop removed from diocese over heavy spending

October 23, 2013

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst has been removed from his post as head of the Diocese of Limburg, Germany, after heated complaints about his heavy spending on a personal residence.

The Vatican announced on October 23 that “a situation has arisen in which Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst cannot, at the present moment, continue to exercise his episcopal ministry.” The Vatican has therefore directed the German bishop to leave the diocese.

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst had travelled to Rome last week to confer with Pope Francis, after the head of the German bishops’ conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, had briefed the Pontiff on the furor created in Germany by reports of the bishop’s spending. The German bishops had pointedly refrained from defending their colleague, and Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier had anticipated the Vatican’s announcement by saying that Bishop Tebartz-van Elst “can no longer in principle work in Limburg.”

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst had come under fire for spending €30 million to renovate his residence and a diocesan office building, and for personal spending that critics described as “lavish.” His difficulties were redoubled when German prosecutors accused him of filing false affidavits in a lawsuit over reporting on his spending habits.

In September, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, the retired president of the Vatican city-state, to Limburg to investigate the complaints of excessive spending. The Vatican did not issue any comment on Cardinal Lajolo’s findings, but the Limburg diocese issued a statement claiming that the bishop had been cleared of wrongdoing.

However, the October 23 announcement from the Vatican indicates that after Cardinal Lajolo’s probe, the German bishops’ conference opened a “detailed examination” of the Limburg diocese, which is still in progress. Bishop Tebartz-van Elst has been removed pending the results of that investigation, the Vatican said.

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst has been instructed to live outside the Limburg diocese for a time, the Vatican indicated, without specifying the length of his absence. Father Stadtdekan Wolfgang Rosch, who had been due to become vicar general on January 1, has been named by the Vatican as the administrator of the diocese.


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  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Oct. 23, 2013 9:00 PM ET USA

    jg2375...Unfortunately,we probably never will see our cover-up bishops enjoy the incarceration they richly deserve. As a friend of mine said,they really believed they were "Princes of the Church" and thus were above judgement.

  • Posted by: BobJ70777069 - Oct. 23, 2013 6:49 PM ET USA

    Bishop Ackermann's Diocese is Trier. Treves is the French name for the city.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Oct. 23, 2013 5:58 PM ET USA

    Surely no serious observer of religion & politics in the USA can doubt that “our bishops”“collectively”are not doing the same thing except on a far grander scale?But they are not like this poor German Servant who is far too obvious about his weakness. Rather, our “Servants” are using our own federal government & tax structure to accomplish their outlandishly expensive & unrealistic agenda,& seem to have little concern about the fact that they(the bishops)are bankrupting our nation in the process

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Oct. 23, 2013 2:53 PM ET USA

    This bothers me. Back when many of us were demanding the removal of bishops who covered up sexual abuse (my own ordinary was threatened with indictment by the state's AG), we were told that each bishop was in effect "a prince" in his diocese, that Rome could do little. IMHO, sexual abuse and criminal conspiracy to cover it up trumps financial extravagance in importance every time. Something smells here and it's not the cheese in Limburg.