Pope Francis has suspended German bishop Tebartz-van Elst, pending an investigation into lavish spending. The German media wonders whether or not he's gone for good.
Pope Francis II has pulled some surprises out of his bejewelled mitre during his first seven months as pope. Today's announcement that he suspended Germany's "Bishop of Bling," Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, has Germans wondering whether the bishop is being gently removed from his post, or tucked away just long enough for the media glare to fade.
The bishop was found to have laid out $42 million to expand and customize his diocesan residence in Limburg, Germany, overspending estimates by around $34 million and allegedly lying to conceal the costs.The Frankfurter Allgemeine reports that a Hamburg prosecutor has also charged him with signing a false affidavit about taking a first-class flight to India.
Pope Francis assured the public that he had been "comprehensively and objectively informed" of these charges. Last Friday a committee chaired by Archbishop Robert Zolltisch began an audit of the project's accounts, which could take several months.
"As we await the results of this audit and the confirmation of related responsibilities, the Holy See considers it advisable to grant [Tebartz van Elst] a period outside of the diocese," explained the Vatican.
But some members of the diocese are impatient to see him go. "This does not fully free our diocese," a member of the Limburg cathedral chapter told Der Spiegel.
And a senior member of the Catholic relief organization Caritas told the magazine, "The diocese has been driven entirely against Tebartz-van Elst. There's absolutely no future with him. Do they really know in Rome what happened here, or don't they want the truth?"
Der Speigel reports that Catholics in the Limburg Diocese are "disconcerted" by the pope's action, worrying that Tebartz-van Elst could be reinstated as early as Christmas.