Scandal-hit German bishop meets pope

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst given 20-minute audience to explain €31m residence

After a week of waiting in the Vatican, Germany's so-called "bling bishop" was given a 20-minute audience with Pope Francis yesterday, to explain how he came to build a residence costing €31 million.

The meeting comes amid ongoing criticism of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst (53) in his diocese of Limburg, near Frankfurt, and signs that diocesan officials are distancing themselves from him.

No details emerged of yesterday’s meeting but a spokesman for the bishop said he thanked the pope for the “very heartening meeting”. The pope is expected to reach a swift decision on the bishop and his future.

€15,000 bath tub
Other German bishops have conceded that his return to Limburg is likely to be difficult due to bad feeling over the €31 million residence, including a €15,000 bath tub, which was originally expected to cost €5.5 million.

“The trust in the bishop is finished, I don’t see how new trust can be established again,” Günther Geis, dean of Limburg cathedral, told Spiegel Online.

Diocese officials have called for a swift decision because of ongoing damage to the church as well as a growing number of outstanding decisions, such as whether to proceed with a print run for prayer books with a foreword by the bishop.