- (Photo: http://www.bistumlimburg.de)
Pope Francis has met with Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the head of the German bishops' conference, to discuss the fate of the so-called "luxury bishop" of Limburg who has spent $42 million on a lavish residence including a free-standing bath, conference table and private chapel worth millions.
"I am convinced that the bishop of Limburg... will confront this situation in a spirit of self-criticism," Archbishop Zollitsch said following his meeting with Pope Francis, Reuters reported.
The bishop in question, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, is facing calls for his resignation after causing an uproar with lavish expenses that seem to contradict the pope's call for austerity and example of humble living.
Tebartz-van Elst has apparently spent over $42 million on a luxury residence and office complex, six times more than the allocated sum, including installing a free-standing bath, a conference table and a private chapel worth millions.
The scandal has made front-page news in German newspapers, with a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying: "Of course, it is not the German government's place to give any advice, but I may express the hope that it will be a solution for the faithful, for people's confidence in their church."
"It hurts me because of the impression that wasting money is a core feature of the Church," added Julia Kloeckner, the deputy chairwoman of Merkel's party.
The German bishop has tried to explain that the money he spent was actually for 10 different projects and that additional costs built up due to regulations on buildings, but he flew to Rome this week in expectation to address the problem directly with Pope Francis. He has apparently admitted to "carelessness or misjudgment on my part," but denied that he has engaged in any wrong-doing.
"The bishop has made it clear that any decision about his service as a bishop lies in the hands of the Holy Father (Pope Francis)," a previous statement by the Limburg diocese read.
While it is not clear whether Francis and Tebartz-van Elst personally spoke, Archbishop Zollitsch said that "all sides are interested in finding a good and rapid solution so that the situation in the diocese of Limburg can be settled and we can find a way out of this difficult situation."
The Archbishop added that an audit commission is set to be launched on Friday to investigate the matter.
Pope Francis has often spoken about the need for Church leaders to live simply, and has led by example by choosing not to live in the lavish papal chambers of his predecessors, and urged Church leaders to give up driving extravagant vehicles and instead donate the money to the poor.