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Vatican suspends Germany's 'bishop bling' after multimillion-dollar renovation

A file photo shows Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the bishop of Limburg, posing for photographs in the inner courtyard of the bishop's residence opposite the cathedral in Limburg, Germany. Boris Roessler / EPA, file

A senior member of the Catholic Church known as the "luxury bishop" has been suspended from his diocese in Germany while the Vatican investigates a house refurbishment that reportedly ran into the millions of dollars.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, who had been under pressure to resign, will leave his diocese for an unspecified period, the Vatican said in a statement on Wednesday. Monsignor Wolfgang Roesch will be in charge of the diocese during the bishop's absence, the Vatican added.

Tebartz-van Elst "cannot presently exercise his episcopal ministry," the statement said.

The Vatican also said it would audit spending on renovations to the bishop's residence, which Germany's Spiegel magazine reported cost up to 31 million euros ($42.70 million).

An aerial view showing the new building of the residence of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst situated directly in front of the Limburg Cathedral in Limburg, Germany. Thomas Frey / EPA, file

The move comes as Pope Francis, who has shunned many aspects of past pontiffs' lavish lifestyles, has been calling for simplicity, humbleness and an increased focus on serving the poor. 

According to a statement from the diocese, Tebartz-van Elst met with Francis Monday and was "grateful for the very heartening meeting."

German media, which had dubbed Tebartz-van Elst "bishop bling" and the "luxury bishop," reported that his residence had been fitted with expensive items such as a $35,000 conference table and a private chapel that cost almost $4 million. 

The bishop has denied any wrongdoing.

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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