Pope Francis on Wednesday permanently removed a German bishop from his Limburg diocese after his $43 million new residence complex caused an uproar among the Catholic community.
Francis had temporarily expelled Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, otherwise known as the “bishop of bling,” from his diocese last October pending a church inquiry.
At the center of the controversy was the price tag for the construction and related renovations. Tebartz-van Elst defended the expenditures, saying the bill was actually for 10 projects and there were additional costs because the buildings were under historical protection.
But in a country where Martin Luther launched the Reformation five centuries ago in response to what he said were excesses and abuses within the church, the outcry was enormous. The perceived lack of financial transparency also struck a chord, since a church tax in Germany brings in billions a year to the German church.
The Vatican said Wednesday that the inquiry into the renovation found that Tebartz-van Elst could no longer exercise his ministry in Limburg and said Francis had accepted his resignation, which was originally offered Oct. 20.
The Vatican added that an apostolic administrator, Monsignor Manfred Grothe, has been appointed to run the diocese for the time being and that Tebartz-van Elst would get a new job "at the opportune time."
A statement said the pope was asking the faithful of the diocese of Limburg to accept the decision "with docility" and to work to restore what it called a "climate of charity and reconciliation.”
In Berlin, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the head of the German Bishops' Conference, told reporters he would do whatever he could to help the Limburg diocese move on.
"For that we will need reconciliation, new trust and the power of prayer," he said.
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.