Diocese wants money from Bishop of Bling

A German diocese wants to recover $NZ$6.5million from its former bishop, dubbed the Bishop of Bling.

Limburg diocese wants its former bishop, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, held responsible for the losses incurred during a luxury makeover of his residence and office.

The makeover cost $NZ52 million. An uproar ensued in 2013 when the details were made public.

This saw the Vatican demand that Bishop Tebartz-van Elst stand down.

He later resigned and, some time later, took up a role in the Roman Curia in the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation.

A Limburg diocesan investigation into the construction saga found the overall bill included $NZ6.5million of outright losses that had to be written off.

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst ran up the bill by demanding late and costly changes, requiring earlier work to be scrapped, and ordering design studies that were not used.

The bishop had paid out millions of euros towards the project from an off-the-books fund only he controlled.

Most German dioceses hold such reserves, known as the Bischoeflicher Stuhl (“bishop’s chair”).

These are diocesan nest eggs that are neither taxed nor mentioned in the annual financial reports where dioceses list how much they receive in revenues, donations and the special German church tax on parishioners.

Limburg diocese is in discussions with the Vatican to see if and how it can make its former bishop pay back the losses.

“In principle, the Holy See is responsible in cases of legal action against a bishop,” a diocesan spokesperson said.

The diocese has not brought canon law charges against Bishop Tebartz-van Elst in a Vatican court.

It was also still trying to establish the full extent of the losses written off.

The diocese is also reviewing the pension it pays its former bishop.

Media reports have stated that Bishop Tebartz-van Elst is receiving NZ$11,700 a month from Limburg in addition to his monthly Vatican salary of about NZ$5000.


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