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article imageGermany's 'bling bishop' resigns, Pope Francis I accepts

By Simon Crompton     Mar 27, 2014 in World
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation Wednesday of the Bishop of Limburg, the controversial German “Bishop of Bling” whose lifestyle of excess has been the subject of much controversy within the church as of late.
The Vatican made the statement Wednesday that Franz-Peter Terbartz-van Elst had already been relieved last year of his clerical duties by Pope Francis after details of his opulent lifestyle became public.
The bishop was the target of much outrage over a building project at his residence in Limburg that included appoints like a museum, chapel, private apartments and conference halls.
The cost of the project was originally estimated at approximately €5.5 million (USD$7.5 million) but rose to an unmanageable €31 million with the inclusion of a garden valued at €783,000 and a bathtub valued at €15,000. The funds all came from German religious tax funds.
The decision was welcomed by chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who said that the decision, “draws to a close a period of uncertainty for the Limburg diocese and makes a fresh start possible."
The cardinal also made a call for "greater transparency" in the finances of the Catholic church as a means of increasing credibility in a period of time wherein the church finds itself mired in controversy and scandal.
Tebartz-van Elst, 53, also found himself under fire for making false statements while under oath regarding flying first class on a trip to visit slum-dwelling people in India. He told a journalist from Der Spiegel — a weekly news periodical based in Hamburg — that he and his companions had flown business class. He denied making this statement when giving sworn testimony on the incident.
The reporter, however, made a videotape of him making the comment, leading to the bishop settling a court case around the matter with a payment of €20,000 last November.
The bishop defended the project at his residence initially, stating that the cathedral complex adjacent to the newer structure is centuries old and heritage protected which made the development more complicated than originally anticipated.
But his prolific spending of church tax monies was the focus of much anger in Germany and carried with it calls for his removal and for sweeping reform in the process of both selecting bishops and keeping timely audits on their finances.
Public outrage even escalated to demonstrations outside the Bishop's residence.
The Vatican said Tebartz-van Elst would be transferred to a different post, but would not say where.
"Wir sind Kirche" (We are Church), a reformist Catholic group, described the bishop's resignation as, "a positive sign for the whole Church."
In contrast, 76-year-old Pope Francis has declined the opportunity to move into the Vatican's papal palace deciding instead to stay in the Casa Santa Marta. Casa is designated as a residence for lay people and clergy visiting the Vatican.
The removal of “The Bishop of Bling” speaks to Pope Francis' resolve to create a “poor church for the poor” and one that allows the Catholic Church to greet the world with a renewed spirit of humility and an attitude of servitude that is oftentimes overshadowed by the actions of a few.
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