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Vatican clears German bishop of financial wrongdoing
Catholic News Service

German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg has been cleared of wrongdoing by the Vatican, after priests and lay Catholics accused him of personal extravagance and lack of accountability.

Stephan Schnelle, Limburg diocesan spokesman, said that, for the bishop, "obtaining the loyalty of priests and lay Catholics will be a big problem. ... but the bishop has gone through a rough time and seems quite delighted with this outcome."

Schnelle said the bishop was subject to a campaign of "lies" that started with comparisons between him and his predecessor. The spokesman told Catholic News Service Sept. 27 that most Catholics in the central German diocese now hoped for a "positive end" to the controversy.

The 53-year-old bishop, appointed in November 2007, was accused of exorbitant spending on a diocesan center and episcopal residence when other church premises were being closed in a structural reform.

In June, Germany's Der Spiegel weekly said the complex, whose estimated cost has tripled to around 15 million euros ($20.3 million), resembled a "monstrous luxury complex."

The weekly also accused Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, who chairs the German bishops' marriage and family commission, of submitting a false affidavit after flying first-class for a January 2012 visit to slums in India; prosecutors are investigating the incident.

A former Vatican nuncio, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, had visited the diocese Sept. 9-16. In a statement, the two said all bills and records for the diocesan complex would be checked and disclosed by a bishops' conference commission, specially convened by Bishop Tebartz-van Elst.

Speaking Sept. 27 at the close of an autumn plenary meeting in Fulda, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the bishops' conference president, expressed support for Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, adding that he counted on Limburg Diocese to find a "forward-looking approach" to its problems.

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