Pope Francis I is living up to his promise to focus on the poor. The German Bishop Franz Peter Tebartz-van Elst is finding that Pope Francis is very sincere in his opposition to opulent spending by those within the church hierarchy. You can read more about the events leading up to this action in an article by Gier Moulson and Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press that was published on 10/23/13 12:06 PM ET EDT.
The Bishop has been dubbed the Bishop of Bling by the German press. Pope Francis removed the Bishop from his official duties as Bishop of Limberg on October 23, 2013. The Bishop will be the subject of an official investigation by the Council of Bishops in Germany. The official statement is that a fair investigation will be conducted into the costs of the Bishop’s new residence. It is expected that the Bishop will be permanently relieved of his duties in Limberg.
Pope Francis has made service to the poor a key issue of his administration. He has appointed a Council of Bishops within the Vatican to ferret out corruption in the hierarchy of the Catholic banking system. The Pope has moved into a simple apartment instead of the official papal residency. He drives a used car donated by a priest instead of the Pope mobile.
The reported cost of the Bishop’s residency in Limberg is said to have topped $43 million dollars. This included many extravagant features that were deemed to be unnecessary by the local German parishioners. These members of the church in Germany initiated the investigation by submitting a formal protest to Pope Francis.
It is refreshing to find the head of a major organization actually living up their official policies and decrees. Pope Francis will continue to face issues that have distanced the members of the church from those chosen for highly visible roles as priests, bishops and cardinals. In the grand scheme, an expensive residency is relatively minor compared to the Archbishop of Scotland having homosexual relationships with local priests and the Vatican Bank laundering money for the Mafia.
Pope Francis continues to work to refocus the Catholic Church in a more spiritual direction, and to curb the excesses of the priesthood on a global basis. It remains to be seen whether the emphasis on expansion of the church will lead to more secular violence in countries where membership in Catholicism is in the minority.
We salute Pope Francis for putting pressure on the higher level members of the priesthood to actually live as common people to allow more support for those within the church that are in serious financial need.