Vatican suspends German bishop amid spending investigation

Story highlights

Germany's Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst has been called the "Bling Bishop"

The bishop's residence in Limburg, Germany, underwent a $42 million renovation

The Vatican says the bishop must stay outside his diocese during the investigation

CNN —  

The Vatican said Wednesday it has suspended a German bishop who has come under fire for his extravagant lifestyle.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst is under investigation for his spending after his residence in Limburg, Germany, was renovated for $42 million.

The Vatican says Tebartz-van Elst cannot carry out his ministry as long as the investigation in ongoing, and he’s been ordered to stay outside his diocese.

Called the “Bling Bishop,” Tebartz-van Elst, who is known as theologically conservative, has denied any wrongdoing, saying the cost overruns on the renovation are legitimate because surrounding structures had to be protected, including the old city wall.

But many people in Limburg and elsewhere want the bishop to step down.

“He built his office on lies,” said Limburg resident Patrick Dehm. “This must come to an end. The diocese doesn’t deserve this.”

For papal biographer Marco Politi it’s not that simple. “The Pope is sending Bishop Tebartz-van Elst into exile for two months,” he told CNN affiliate RTL. “That is indeed a punishment, but a lot now depends on what the investigating committee will say.”

Some German media have come down hard on the bishop, with Der Spiegel criticizing him for taking a first-class flight to India, where he visited with the poor. Tebartz-van Elst said that he had gotten an upgrade and that he’s no fan of champagne or caviar.

For his latest trip to the Vatican, he reportedly flew on a budget airline.

Pope Francis shuns luxury apartment

CNN’s Richard Greene, Diana Magnay and Susanna Capelouto contributed to this report.