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PHOTOS: Germany's 'bling bishop' and his $42 million mansion

October 22, 2013 11:18 IST

PHOTOS: Germany's 'bling bishop' and his $42 million mansion

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K Mammen Mathew

A German Catholic bishop, under fire for his extravagant spending and for lying under oath about a first class flight he took to India last year, has appeared before Pope Francis in Rome, amid speculation whether he will be forced to resign for his big-spending lifestyle.

Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst (left), the Bishop of Limburg, near Frankfurt, was received by the pope for a private audience after a tense week's wait in Rome.

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Image: A car drives past the residence of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst next to Limburg Cathedral in Limburg
Photographs: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

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K Mammen Mathew

"The bishop is grateful for the very heartening meeting," the diocese of Limburg said in a statement. "He and the Pope agreed the course and contents of the discussions would remain confidential," the statement said.

A Vatican statement confirmed the 20-minute meeting but did not offer any further details.

Media reports quoting church officials said the Pope is expected to wait for a report of the German Catholic Bishop's Conference to decide whether the Bishop can stay in office.

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Image: Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst's residence and his private chapel are pictured in Limburg
Photographs: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

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Germany's 'bling bishop' and his $42 million mansion

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K Mammen Mathew

Dubbed by the media as the "luxury bishop" of Limburg, the 53-year-old bishop has been under mounting pressure from clergy and laymen to step down after it emerged that he had spent over $ 42 million to renovate his residence and offices.

Auditing by Limburg diocese officials revealed that the renovation costs went up more than six times the original estimate of $ 7.2 million and some reports suggested that the total costs may be around $ 52 million.

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Image: An aerial view shows Limburg cathedral (right) and to the left the construction site for the ensemble of the bishop of Limburg's residence along the river Lahn
Photographs: Euroluftbild.de/Reuters

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Germany's 'bling bishop' and his $42 million mansion

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K Mammen Mathew

In a legal dispute with the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, the bishop is also facing charges that he gave false statements at a court in Hamburg about his flight to India to visit poor communities.

Pope Francis, who prefers a down-to-earth lifestyle, was reported to be angry when he heard about the lavish spending of the bishop at a meeting with the head of Bishop's Conference Archbishop Robert Zollitsch in Rome last Thursday.

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Image: A general view of the ensemble of the bishop's residence with the bishop's private chapel in Limburg
Photographs: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

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Germany's 'bling bishop' and his $42 million mansion

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K Mammen Mathew

Archbishop Zollitsch, an outspoken critic of the bishop's behaviour, informed the pope that an inquiry commission set up by the Conference began its investigations into the use of church funds for the bishop's renovation project and other allegations against him.

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst travelled secretly to Rome eight days ago and since then he was waiting for a meeting with the pope. Hundreds of his congregation have been demonstrating outside the church for several days demanding his resignation.

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Image: A woman kneels in prayer inside Limburg cathedral
Photographs: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

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Germany's 'bling bishop' and his $42 million mansion

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K Mammen Mathew

Under the church law, only the pope has the authority to remove a bishop.

Many in the church believe that the crisis could be resolved if the bishop leaves his office voluntarily, an option which is allowed in exceptional circumstances.

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst became an embarrassment for the German Catholic church after the state prosecutor in Hamburg raised formal charges against him at a court earlier this month, demanding punishment for allegedly submitting false affidavits related to his flight to India.


Image: Visitors take a break outside Limburg cathedral
Photographs: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

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Photographs: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
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