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Religion

Pope Francis temporarily suspends German 'luxury' bishop

The pope has suspended the bishop of Limburg for the immediate future. The German cleric was temporarily relieved of his post in the wake of a scandal involving a 31-million-euro ($42 million) renovation project.

Vatican suspends German bishop

Pope Francis announced he would remove Bishop of Limburg Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from his position for the time being, according to a Vatican statement on Wednesday. The decision came two days after the pontiff held a private audience with Tebartz-van Elst.

The pontiff had chosen to suspend Tebartz-van Elst because he "could not [carry out his duties] at the current time," given the controversy surrounding his costly renovation project, the Vatican statement said.

Vicar general Wolfgang Rösch from the neighboring city of Wiesbaden was named as the temporary caretaker for the bishop of Limburg's diocese. Rösch had already been selected to become Limburg's vicar general beginning January 2014.

It was not immediately clear how long German bishop would be suspended.

German daily newspaper "Bild" reported on Wednesday that the suspension was expected to last two to three months.

There was no immediate comment from the bishop.

The 'luxury' bishop

Tebartz-van Elst, 53, this month announced the costs for the renovation of his new residence and offices would be 31 million euros, far beyond the original estimate of 5.5 million euros.

The scandal over the possible misuse of Church funds has drawn criticism in Germany, where parish funds comes not only from donations, but also from a special "church tax" paid by registered parishioners to their respective denominations.

The surprising cost of the renovation projects prompted calls for his resignation by German Catholics.

A separate scandal had also drawn attention to the bishop around the same time involving a trip to India where he visited impoverished communities. He had denied claims by the German news magazine Der Spiegel that he had flown first-class. The Hamburg prosecutor subsequently issued an indictment against him for allegedly submitting false affidavits.

Tebartz-van Elst has defended the costs, citing the breadth of the project as the main reason for the exorbitant bill.

kms/mz (KNA, dpa)

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