'Bishop Of Bling' Gets The Boot

Mar 26, 2014
Originally published on March 26, 2014 12:10 pm

The more than $40 million he allowed to be spent on renovations at his residence and allegations that he lied about some of his other lavish spending have now officially cost the "bishop of bling" his job.

The Vatican announced Wednesday that it has accepted the resignation of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, who had been the bishop of Limburg, Germany. He will be assigned other duties.

It was last October when the Vatican suspended Tebartz-van Elst, following reports about $475,000 that was spent on walk-in closets, $20,000 for a bathtub and other expenditures that drove the cost of what was supposed to be a $7.5 million or so renovation to nearly six times that figure.

As Agence France-Presse adds, "he had also come under fire for lying under oath about flying first class to visit slum dwellers in India."

News accounts about Tebartz-van Elst's spending led to his less than flattering "bishop of bling" nickname. As Reuters notes, the stories came at a particularly sensitive time — "Pope Francis has been urging Church officials around the world to be more austere and live simple lives in order to be closer to the poor."

Plans are being made to turn the residence into a refuge for the poor and homeless.

Update at 12:10 p.m. ET. The Outcry:

When stories of Tebartz-van Elst's spending surfaced in Germany last year, "public indignation was vast in the country where Martin Luther launched the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago over what he called the abuses and excesses of the Catholic Church," NPR's Sylvia Poggioli, who is in Rome, tells our Newscast Desk.

She adds that the news also came "at a time of growing opposition among German Catholics to an obligatory church tax and while Pope Francis has been urging church officials to live simple lives closer to the poor."

Update at 11:25 a.m. ET. Keeps His Title.

According to Reuters:

"Tebartz-van Elst, 54, is still 21 years away from official retirement age in the church. He will retain the title and rank of bishop but the Vatican will probably want to put him in a low-profile job somewhere."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.