Postcard from... Limburg



All is not well in the Catholic diocese of Limburg in Germany. The faithful appear to have had more than enough of their Bishop, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst. There were unprecedented scenes at church services across the diocese last Sunday when various congregations are reported to have applauded priests who publicly called for Bishop Tebartz’s immediate resignation.

Now the faithful have followed up with a letter signed by hundreds demanding the same. Their response is hardly surprising because Bishop Tebartz stands accused of some strikingly un-Catholic behaviour. He is alleged to have upgraded his airline ticket to fly first class to India on a trip to minister to poor children. The bishop says he flew “business class”.

He is disliked because he is building an opulent residence right next door to Limburg cathedral. At first the residence was meant to cost €200,000; now he has admitted that it will cost well over €10m. The wayward bishop is also accused of arrogance, pompous behaviour and of displaying an exaggerated liking for gold brocade on his robes of office as well as the use of incense during church services.

“Tebartz-van Elst has lost all contact with reality,” complained one of his critics. “He is no shepherd tending the flock of mankind. He is only interested in his privileges and staying in office,” he added. But although his days may appear numbered, the bishop still has a trump up his sleeve: under church rules, he cannot simply be sacked, but has to dismiss himself. The faithful look set to continue their protest.