- (Photo: http://www.bistumlimburg.de)
German Catholic bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg is set to answer questions before the Vatican about an excessive $42 million sum he has spent on a luxury residence, causing uproar in the Catholic Church.
"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 statement by the Limburg diocese read, according to Reuters.
"The bishop is saddened by the escalation of the current discussion. He sees and regrets that many believers are suffering under the current situation."
Pope Francis has distinguished himself as a humble Vatican leader, carrying over his style while Archbishop of Buenos Aires by focusing on humility and living simply. He has refused 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 – so much so that in September he gave up the use of the famous "Popemobile," which was a Mercedes-Benz, for a 30-year-old Renault 4 with 186,000 miles on the clock.
The German bishop, on the other hand, has reportedly caused a stir in the church after building a luxury residence and office complex for $42 million, which is six times more than the allocated sum.
Tebartz-van Elst is also facing accusations of lying under oath about taking a first-class flight to visit poverty programs in India in a separate case.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the head of Germany's bishops conference, said on Monday that the church must deal with the accused bishop, and acknowledged that the church's finances are on the line, The Associated Press reported.
The Limburg bishop is facing calls for his resignation, with numerous headlines pointing out that his lavish spending is far removed from the pope's example of humble living.
"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," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert.
"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.
Tebartz-van Elst has insisted that the money he spent was actually for 10 different projects and that additional costs built up due to regulations on buildings. It is not yet known if or when exactly the bishop is expected to meet with Francis while in Rome, though the Vatican made no mention of his visit on Monday.