'Bishop Bling-Bling' suspended by pope
Extravagant clerics in Germany now under scrutiny by Francis
Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, denounced by some as "Bishop Bling-Bling" for his extravagant lifestyle has now been officially suspended by Pope Francis. Part of the the 52-year-old bishop's lavish lifestyle included a $20,000 bathtub and $482,000 walk-in closets. The bishop of Limburg has scandalized the German people - and now other clerics in that country are under intense scrutiny by Pope Francis.
Tebartz-van Elst is just the latest German clergyman to curry disfavor since Pope Francis took the helm of the church.
German dioceses, which reportedly include the world's wealthiest in Cologne, are being stifled under Francis' new direction as membership numbers continue to dwindle.
"Tebartz-van Elst is just the tip of the iceberg," Christian Weisner, spokesman for the German branch of We Are Church says. The organization advocates reformation within the Catholic church. "There is a real clash of cultures between Germany's current cardinals and bishops -- nominated under John Paul II or Benedict XVI -- and Pope Francis."
Pope Francis has repeatedly urged the church to strip itself of all "vanity, arrogance and pride." He has commanded the church to serve society's poorest. Priests living in luxury are no longer merely unseemly, but to Francis - scandalous.
Setting an example by driving around Vatican City in a 30-year-old white Renault clunker gifted by an Italian priest, the head of the German bishops' conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, balked at the idea of giving up his company car, a BMW 740d.
"To me that car is not a status symbol; it is the office I use when I am traveling," Zollitsch said at a press event earlier this month.
Most of the church's top officials in Germany drive high-powered Mercedes, BMWs or Audis.
Carsten Frerk, who specializes on church finances in Germany, said German bishops' reluctance to follow Francis' new course is no surprise.
"The German Catholic Church is one of the country's wealthiest and largest organizations and its top officials expect a certain lifestyle," Frerk says. Having published two books on the German churches' wealth and what he describes as their "opaque" financing, Frerk adds "But they are wary of the extent of their wealth becoming broadly known because it might lead to fewer donations."
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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