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'Bishop of bling' is out (for now); Pope Francis accepts resignation

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The cleric who became known as the "bishop of bling" has been removed from his ministry in Limburg, Germany, thanks to the conspicuously frugal Pope Francis.

The Vatican has accepted Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst's resignation, according to news reports. The announcement caps off the controversy swirling around the bishop over the $43 million spent on his residence complex in Limburg.

As the Los Angeles Times' Carol Williams reported in November, Tebartz-van Elst broke the budget for renovations, overspending by 800% on items including a $20,000 bathtub, $620,000 in artwork and $1.1 million for landscaping.

He was placed on indefinite leave in October as a church inquiry was launched. Tebartz-van Elst said the hefty expenditures were actually for 10 projects and there were additional costs because the buildings were under historical protection.

Meantime, Tebartz-van Elst paid $27,000 to settle a court case that involved his lying under oath about flying first class to minister to slum dwellers in India.

European media came up with the derisive nickname the "bishop of bling." German parishioners were outraged by the bishop's lifestyle. As the Associated Press noted, the country has a church tax that adds billions of dollars each year to the coffers of the German church.

Tebartz-van Elst offered his resignation Oct. 20 amid the furor. Pope Francis on Wednesday concluded his inquiry and accepted it. 

The Vatican said Monsignor Manfred Grothe, currently an auxiliary bishop, would be taking over, according to the AP. Tebartz-van Elst will eventually get a new job in the church -- "at the opportune time."

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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