"Pope Francis is setting the example for all clergy worldwide."
Last week, Pope Francis removed German bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst for spending $43 million on a new residence and renovations. On Monday, an Atlanta archbishop voluntarily stepped up to the plate.
After criticism from local Catholics, Archbishop Wilton Gregory has apologized for building a $2.2 million mansion in a posh Atlanta neighborhood. The 6,400 square foot home includes two dining rooms, a second-floor safe room, an 8-burner stove, and an elevator. A wine room and antique chandelier in the foyer from the blueprints were rejected.
"I failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services," Gregory wrote on the website of an archdiocesan newspaper.
Gregory added that he hadn't looked at project's cost in terms of his own "integrity and pastoral credibility."
The home was partially paid for by a $15 million gift from Joseph Mitchell, the nephew of "Gone With the Wind" author Margaret Mitchell. When Joseph passed away in 2011 most of his estate went to his home parish, Christ the King Cathedral. He only asked that the money be used for "general religious and charitable purposes."
Gregory required a new home after giving up his residence near the cathedral where more space for needed for growth. The cathedral bought Gregory's old home for $1.9 million (and plans to spend $292,000 more to expand the home for its priests).
Archbishop Gregory decided to build his new million dollar home on land that Joseph Mitchell had donated. Gregory had Mitchell's one-story home demolished and began building. He moved into his new home three months ago, but not without questions from parishioners.
"Pope Francis is setting the example for all clergy worldwide," said Laura Mullins, a local. "And if Pope Francis saw his 6,000-foot Tudor mansion and the finest amenities and details, I feel certain he would tell him to sell the home and to use the money more wisely."
On Tuesday, Pope Francis met with the heads of all Vatican offices to discuss implementing his apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel." In the past, Francis has made it clear that he expects his priests to follow his example, refraining from buying expensive cars and the latest technology.
In his apology, Gregory said that he will sell the home and move somewhere else if financial and internal Church councils advise him to do so.
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