Germany’s embattled ‘bishop bling’ moves to monastery for ‘recuperation’

Roman Catholic Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst stands in the cloister of the Episcopal Ordinariate in Limburg in April 2012. Reuters

A German bishop who was suspended from his diocese over a house renovation that reportedly cost $42.7 million is now spending his days in a decidedly less lavish monastery.

Last week Pope Francis met with Limburg's Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, dubbed "bishop bling" and the "luxury bishop" in the media, after the reports of the multimillion-dollar project surfaced. The German Bishops' Conference also launched an investigation into the costly refurbishment.

The Benedictine Abbey in Metten, where Tebartz-van Elst arrived this week, said in a statement Thursday that "the Benedictines are glad to see the bishop spending a spiritual period of recuperation" there.

Tebartz-van Elst was "taking part in the community and life of the monastery," the statement said, adding that he had spent clerical time there in the past.

Since becoming pope in March, Francis has said he wants the Roman Catholic Church to be more humble and simple and to increase its focus on the poor; he has himself abandoned some of the more ostentatious papal traditions and clothing.

A German charity for the homeless reportedly suggested that the bishop's residence be used as a refugee center or soup kitchen.

An aerial view shows Limburg cathedral, right, and to the left the ensemble of the bishop of Limburg's residence along the river Lahn. German Catholic bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, under fire for huge cost overruns on the luxury residence. Wolfgang Rattay / Reuters

In an interview with German broadcaster ZDF, Dean of Frankfurt Catholic Church Johannes zu Eltz said Catholics "need a bishop who trusts us, and who we can trust."

"We would like to elect a new bishop as soon as the Holy Father gives us permission to do so," he added.

Neither the Vatican nor the monastery said how long Tebartz-van Elst was expected to stay there.

Diocese officials in Limburg said the investigation would last until January. Tebartz-van Elst has denied any wrongdoing.