Vatican suspends 'bishop of bling' who spent €31m renovating a property

Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst suspended by papal decree

In Milan

Germany’s “Bling Bishop”, who sparked outrage after spending €15,000 of diocese money on a bathtub and €350,000 on walk-in wardrobes, has been suspended after falling foul of the famously frugal Francis I.

In a last minute nod to cost-cutting the Bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, flew into Rome at the weekend on Ryanair after been summoned to explain his lavish spending, following protests from local church-goers.

But it appears Francis I, who models himself on the ascetic Saint from Assisi, was not impressed after hearing Tebartz-van Elst’s attempts to justify home improvements and renovations totalling €31m – more than double the original €13.5m estimate presented to the diocese.

"The Holy Father has been continuously and objectively informed of the situation," a Vatican spokesman said yesterday. "A situation has been created in which the bishop can no longer exercise his episcopal duties.

"The Holy See deems it appropriate to authorise a period of leave from the diocese for Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst.”

Tebartz-van Elst was made bishop to the Limburg diocese in 2008 by fellow countryman Pope Benedict XVI, who viewed him as a rising young conservative theologian.

Benedict’s very different successor, Francis I, has repeatedly called for a back-to-basics approach, however, and has said he wants today's Catholic Church to resemble Francis of Assisi's "Church of the poor". The pontiff has refused to move into the lavish papal palace in the Vatican, staying instead in the Casa Santa Marta, a residence for visitors.

The bishop’s extravagant spending also caused protests locally. Germany’s 24 million registered Catholics make a compulsory contribution to the Church from their income tax. And some of them, angered by the diocese’s decadence, have already staged protest outside the bishop's expansive residence. One church-goer told the German DW news agency: “I am praying for our Bishop to be healed of his egomania.”

The bishop has defended the renovation, saying it involved 10 different projects and that there were additional costs because of regulations on buildings under historical protection.

Domestic costs are not the only cloud hovering over Bishop Tebartz-van Elst though. He is facing claims that he lied about the cost of a flight to India.

The Bishop filed a civil action against the German magazine Der Spiegel over its claims that he flew business class for the trip on which he visited the country’s poor. But when Der Spiegel produced a recording of him discussing his expensive tickets, the state prosecutor in Hamburg stepped in and issued an indictment saying he had made false affidavits to the court.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific