Pope accepts resignation of high-spending German bishop

Berlin — Pope Francis on Wednesday accepted the resignation of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the bishop of Limburg, whose extravagant spending on renovations for his personal residence angered his congregation and ran afoul of the pontiff’s message of humility and modesty for the Roman Catholic Church.

The Holy See accepted the German bishop’s offer to resign “given that it has come to a situation in the Limburg diocese that prevents Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from fruitfully carrying out his duties,” the Vatican said in a statement Wednesday.

German news reports said Tebartz-van Elst, 54, had poured more than 31 million euros (about $43 million) into the renovation of his residence and other church buildings, including 15,000 euros on a bathtub and an expensive reopening of the roof of his personal chapel to allow for the suspension of a cross.

As the allegations and the discontent mounted last year, the bishop traveled to the Vatican in October and offered his resignation to the pope. Francis suspended him at the time, pending the outcome of an investigation by Germany’s conference of bishops.

Members of that conference had expressed doubt that it would be possible for Tebartz-van Elst to return to his post given the reactions of many in his diocese. The allegations have added to the struggles of the Catholic Church in Germany, which has sought to regain trust shattered by revelations of widespread sexual abuse of minors by the clergy.

Details of the German bishops’ findings are expected to be released later Wednesday.

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