A German bishop who spent £26million on refurbishing his new residential complex has been summoned to the Vatican to answer for his excesses.
There are growing calls for the resignation of Bishop of Limburg Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, who travelled to Rome on Sunday, pointedly on a Ryanair flight.
There, he will meet the head of the Catholic Church in Germany, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, who has set up a commission to investigate the finances of the Limburg diocese, the BBC reports. It is not clear if Pope Francis will intervene.
According to Bild, the Bishop’s spends include:
- £12,000 bathtub
- £1.8million marble courtyard with fountains running with holy water
- £622,000 sculpted gardens (not accessible to the public)
- £20,500 dining table
- £294,000 built-in closets
- £2.2million new chapel
- £900,000 sleeping quarters for visiting clergy
The residence also has a wine cellar, gilded door handles, a sauna, a fireplace and specially commissioned religious statues. Of the entire sum, the 53-year-old is believed to have spent £2.4million on his private quarters.
Pope Francis himself has followed a modest lifestyle and encouraged other church leaders to do the same.
Bishop Tebartz-van Elst told Bild: “I understand that the high cost of €31million (£26million) sounds frightening. Those who know me know that I don’t have a pompous lifestyle.”
Germany’s 24 million registered Catholics make a compulsory contribution to the Church via their income tax.
According to Euro News, a church audit reveals the bishop's building project went six times over budget.
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One man told the channel: "It’s catastrophic what the bishop has done. He needs to be deposed for wasting our money like that."
“What the man has done is not good. He needs to be punished for that. You cannot do that with other people’s money, you cannot beg for money all the time and then build a place like that,” added another.
In a press conference last Thursday reported by the Independent, Archbishop Zollitsch, admitted: “I am as surprised as you are [by the costs]. I am sure that the bishop is dealing with this thoroughly and with the necessary self-criticism. Next week, I will speak to the Holy Father in Rome about it,”
A statement issued by the Limburg diocese on Saturday said: "The bishop has made it clear that any decision about his service as a bishop lies in the hands of the Holy Father (Pope Francis)."
"The bishop is saddened by the escalation of the current discussion. He sees and regrets that many believers are suffering under the current situation," it added.
The bishop is also mired in legal proceedings after he filed a civil court claim against Der Spiegel magazine for reporting he flew first class on a trip to India to visit poor children.
The magazine issued a retraction but then launched its own suit after publishing a mobile phone video of an interview in which the Bishop states he flew business class.