Pope Francis temporarily expelled a German bishop from his diocese on Wednesday, due to his $42.7 million project to build a new residence. The Pope refused to completely remove Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from his post in Limburg, though many associated with the Holy See had called for it.
Pope Francis is known for his affinity towards a more toned-down mode of papal living – he’s moved into a Vatican guesthouse, and doesn’t ride around in a tricked-out Mercedes popemobile. During a recent trip to Brazil, he was driven in a Fiat, and has been seen in Fords and Volkswagons. Clearly Tebartz-van Elst's actions have been seriously frowned upon.
It's not known how long Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst would remain exiled from the diocese of Limburg. It's been confirmed that Rev. Wolfgang Roesch would run things during what the Vatican calls Tebartz-van Elst's “period of time away.”
Roesch had been scheduled to take control on January 1, but will begin running the diocese immediately, after much protest over the huge construction project. Pope Francis met with Tebartz-van Elst and Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the head of the German bishops' conference, last week. Soon after, the Vatican released a statement that Tebartz-van Elst “could no longer exercise his episcopal ministry.”
Tebartz-van Elst claimed the almost $43 million spent was covering 10 projects beyond his residence complex, and that extra fees had been tacked on due of historical preservation regulations.
There has been a lot of public disdain for the project, and the German press has called for Tebartz-van Elst to resign. There's a transparent church tax in Germany that rakes in billions of euros a year, further scandalizing the project. The Vatican has made it clear that Pope Francis had made an objective decision on the matter, and that public outcry didn't sway any proceedings.
Tebartz-van Elst is no stranger to controversy. He'd been criticized by local priests after recalling the dean of Wetzlar for blessing a homosexual couple in 2008. Tebartz-van Elst also attempted to suppress media reports of a first-class flight to India after he'd upgraded it in 2012. The cagey bishop was appointed on November 28, 2007, by Pope Benedict XVI.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.