Sunday, November 24, 2013

'Bishop of Bling' settles with court over flight case

Bishop Elst A German court has dropped for the time being an investigation into the 'luxury bishop' over accusations he lied under oath about taking a first-class flight to visit poverty projects in India, reports Reuters in The West Australian.

State prosecutors had sought to have Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg fined for making false affidavits about the flight, but the court accepted a $30,000 settlement.

The Bishop has also been under scrutiny over separate revelations that he let costs for his new residence in Limburg run to 31 million euros, more than six times the original estimate, triggering calls for his resignation. 

Last month Pope Francis ordered him to leave his diocese while an investigation and audit into high costs were conducted.

In the case of the flight, prosecutors were investigating whether Bishop Tebartz-van Elst had lied under oath when he denied a report in Der Spiegel news magazine that he flew first-class to India to visit poverty projects.

The Bishop, 53, said he flew business class. But Der Spiegel made public a mobile phone video recording of a conversation which triggered action by prosecutors in Hamburg. 

'The criminal proceedings against the Bishop of Limburg have been suspended provisionally in exchange for 20,000 euros,' the Hamburg court said in a statement.

The decision had the consent of the State prosecutors, it said. The Vatican sent an envoy in September to investigate protests in the diocese. 

Pope Francis then banished Bishop Tebartz-van Elst from his diocese on October 23 for spending so much of Church funds at a time when the pontiff is stressing austerity.

But he stopped short of dismissing him outright. 

The issue is an embarrassment for the Pope, who has called for a more austere Church that sides with the poor.

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