BERLIN: German Catholics, clergy and the media reacted with a mix of relief, reform calls and ridicule to the Vatican’s suspension of the big-spending “bling bishop,” Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst.
Pope Francis ordered a time-out for the bishop over his luxury lifestyle and multimillion-euro house renovations, despite multiple calls in Germany for the prelate to be dismissed.
News portal Spiegel Online, whose parent magazine has long tussled with the cleric, headlined its article with the words “The Lord taketh away,” while the top-selling Bild daily declared “Limburg doesn’t want the splurge-bishop back.”
The reformist Catholic group “Wir sind Kirche” (We are Church) said that “after the immense loss of trust caused by the behavior” of the bishop it was “inconceivable” that he would again hold episcopal office.
The group also urged reforms in the selection process of bishops and the auditing of their finances and said that “the Limburg case must serve as a serious warning to all German bishops concerning their actions, management and lifestyle.”
The Central Committee of German Catholics, which groups lay associations in the country, said it was satisfied with the Vatican decision, saying it “offers a chance at a new beginning in the diocese of Limburg.”
Bishop of Trier Stephan Ackermann, a more outspoken critic, said “I remain skeptical regarding a possible future for Bishop Tebartz-van Elst in Limburg.”
The forced vacation for the bishop was a sign of the “loss of confidence” on the part of the Vatican, he said.
Ludwig Reichert, spokesman of the reformist Hofheim Circle, said the pope’s decision should calm things down for now, as long as the bishop stays away.
He ruled out a return, judging that trust in the bishop had been “effectively destroyed.”