Friday 18 October 2019

'Bishop of bling' spent €213,000 on fish tank

The pope has removed Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from his post as bishop of Limburg (AP)
The pope has removed Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from his post as bishop of Limburg (AP)

A disgraced German bishop, who resigned over his misuse of Church funds, spent €213,000 on an ornamental fish tank.

The extravagant purchase was just one item listed in a report into Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst’s spending.

Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst stepped down on the same day that a report was published detailing his extravagances

The extravagant purchase was just one item listed in a report into Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst’s spending.

The leadership of Germany’s Catholic Church on Wednesday published the 108-page document detailing the Bishop of Limburg’s renovation of his headquarters.

It revealed that the 54-year-old, dubbed the "bishop of bling", had poured at least €31m of Church funds into his residence – more than five times the originally estimated cost of €5.5m.

This included  €1.73m on bronze window frames, €171,000 on a spiral staircase and €1.17m on décor and artwork.

The bishop, who had already been suspended in October after details of his spending emerged, handed in his resignation to Pope Francis on the same day as the report was publicised.

In a statement on Thursday, the bishop said his handling of the role was "in many respects a disorderly, unfocused and primarily a personally-driven management position".

But he argued that his profligate spending was due to other construction projects that he had seen go wrong.

Tebartz-van Elst said he had felt the need to "observe the quality and the durability of the entire project.”

He said: "As I am not an authority in the area of church management, as my qualification is in pastoral theory, I have to relinquish the responsibility to Dr Kaspar who was [according to the report into the spending] 'the only person with an overarching view of the seat's assets'’.”

According to a Vatican statement, Pope Francis has asked the congregation in Limburg to accept the decision “with docility” and to work towards the restoration of a "climate of charity and reconciliation".

The statement added that Tebartz-van Elst would be assigned a role elsewhere, but provided no further details.

The series of events is deeply embarrassing for the Vatican, coming at a time when Pope Francis has been preaching austerity.

He has urged Church officials around the world to eschew worldly goods and has himself renounced the spacial papal apartments in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace for far more modest quarters in a Church guest house.

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