Churchgoers in Germany’s cathedral city of Limburg welcomed the abrupt departure of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst last October when the Vatican suspended him from his duties.
Nicknamed the “Bishop of Bling”, Tebartz-van Elst stood accused of flying first-class to India to minister to the poor and squandering €31m on refurbishing his elaborate bishop’s residence.
Banished from Limburg, he has been living in a cloister in Bavaria while church officials investigated. Their findings, leaked this week, suggest that the bishop’s misconduct was even worse than first suspected. Tebartz-van Elst and his vicar are reported to have misused as much as €9m worth of funds belonging to a church charity which specialises in helping poor families.
The bishop is said to have covered up the illicit use of the cash and used it to pay for work on his residence. Employees were allegedly put under pressure to keep silent. Yet, investigators found that he remained convinced that he had made only minor mistakes and saw no need to resign.
Pope Francis, who received a copy of the report yesterday, will decide on his future. Meanwhile, the church is considering turning the bishop’s residence into a refugee centre or a soup kitchen.