Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg has been cleared of wrongdoing by the Vatican, after priests and lay Catholics accused him of personal extravagance and a lack of accountability.
Stephan Schnelle, Limburg diocesan spokesman, said that, for the
bishop, “obtaining the loyalty of priests and lay Catholics will be a
big problem. … but the bishop has gone through a rough time and seems
quite delighted with this outcome”.
Mr Schnelle said the bishop was subject to a campaign of “lies” that
started with comparisons between him and his predecessor.
told the American Catholic News Service that most Catholics in the
diocese now hoped for a “positive end” to the controversy.
The 53-year-old bishop, appointed in November 2007, was accused of
exorbitant spending on a diocesan centre and episcopal residence when
other church premises were being closed in a structural reform.
In June Germany’s Der Spiegel weekly said the complex, whose
estimated cost has tripled to around 15 million euros (£12.5 million),
resembled a “monstrous luxury complex”.
The weekly also accused Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, who chairs the
German bishops’ marriage and family commission, of submitting a false
affidavit after flying first-class for a January 2012 visit to slums in
India. Prosecutors are investigating the incident.
A former Vatican nuncio, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, visited the
diocese earlier this month.
In a statement, the two said all bills and
records for the diocesan complex would be checked and disclosed by a
bishops’ conference commission, specially convened by Bishop Tebartz-van
Speaking at the close of an autumn plenary meeting in Fulda,
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the bishops’ conference president,
expressed support for Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, adding that he counted on
Limburg Diocese to find a “forward-looking approach” to its problems.