A German cleric referred to as the “bling bishop” because of his lavish lifestyle has been indefinitely suspended from his diocese by Pope Francis, the Vatican said Wednesday.
Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, 53, recently spent $42 million to renovate his official residence in Limburg, a small western German city near Frankfurt.
The bishop spent more than $600,000 on artwork for his home, $474,000 on built-in cupboards and carpentry, and $135,000 for the windows of the chapel. He spent another $20,000 on a single bathtub.
His residence includes his own private apartments, offices, living quarters for nuns, a private chapel, conference halls and a museum.
German magazine Der Spiegel referred to the renovation as “pimping the diocese.”
“The Holy See deems it appropriate to authorize a period of leave from the diocese for Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst,” the Vatican said in a statement.
“The Holy Father has been continuously and objectively informed of the situation,” read the statement. “A situation has been created in which the bishop can no longer exercise his Episcopal duties.”
The bishop’s actions are sharply at odds with what the Pope has said about building “a poor church for the poor.”
Francis himself decided not to take up residences in the Vatican and instead chose an apartment in a modest guesthouse. The Jesuit pope rides around in a second-hand Renault instead of the limousines of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
Since he took office in March, Pope Francis has referred to church leaders as “narcissists” and “courtiers."
“It is clear that the expression ‘poor church’ has become the key theme of the Petrine ministry of Pope Francis,” Monsignor Georg Ganswein, who acts as personal secretary to Pope Francis, told the Italian newspaper Il Messagero on Tuesday.
The renovation to the large residence was approved by Tebartz-van Elst’s predecessor, but the estimated cost was $7.5 million. Tebartz-van Elst spent a total of $42 million.
Just last week the bishop flew to Rome on economy airline Ryanair, after he was accused of booking a business-class ticket on a trip to India. He spoke with the Pope and answered claims that he has been spending extravagantly. Italian media said the meeting would “decide the fate” of the German bishop.
Like his namesake St. Francis of Assissi, the Pope has repeatedly warned that “worldliness is a murderer because it kills souls, kills people, kills the Church.”
Last month, Francis criticized the global economy for worshipping “this god called money” and creating a culture of waste.