Page 3 Profile: Tebartz-Van Elst, Bishop of Limburg


So who is this reverent and sombre preacher man?

Well, actually, he’s not that sombre, or restrained for that matter.  Fifty-three-year-old Tebartz-Van Elst is Germany’s infamous “Bishop of Bling” and has just been suspended by the Vatican for too much lavish spending.

Presumably he dispersed the money among his parishioners?

Er, not quite. The erstwhile bishop of the diocese of Limburg paid for house renovations to the tune of  31m (£26m), which included spending an unholy £12,000 on a bathtub and £20,500 on a dining table. He has also spent £2.2m on a new chapel, £622,000 on sculpted gardens and £1.8m on a marble courtyard with fountains “running with holy water”.

Wow, that’s really quite impressive... What’s the problem?

His house looks like an exquisite Tudor castle, but that’s not the point. The Pope disapproves of this kind of lifestyle and wants the central message of the church to be about connecting with the poor and underprivileged (Elst even bought first-class tickets when he flew to India to visit people in poverty).

The bishop’s spending has been distressing for Catholics in Germany too and has been described as a “burden” on them as many of them pay a church tax to the state.

Are plush pads and luxury living a recurring problem in the Catholic Church?

No, but it’s a sore point in Germany where 500 years ago the Reformation was started by Martin Luther in response to excess within the church.

What now for Bishop Elst?

According to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Pope has been “merciful” in dealing with him, but the paper doubts he’ll ever return to the diocese again.