In a statement released by the Holy See Press Office, Pope Francis has temporarily removed Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, pending an investigation into expenses for his residence.
The German bishop has been heavily criticized when it was revealed that an estimated €31 million ($42 million) was spent for the construction of a new residence and offices.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, read the statement to journalists today, acknowledging that a Commission has been set up by the German Episcopal Conference to investigate further on the expenditures for the construction.
“Pending the results of this examination and the related investigations of the responsibilities in this regard, the Holy See considers it appropriate to authorize for Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst a period of time outside of the Diocese,” the statement read.
In a news conference several weeks earlier, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Episcopal Conference, confirmed the creation of the Commission which consists of experts in canon law and finance. “The names of the members will not be revealed as of yet, so as to allow them to conduct their investigation,” the Archbishop said at the October 14th press conference. “As soon as it is over, both the report and the members of the commission will be announced.”
In the absence of the diocesan Bishop, the Holy See has named Rev. Wolfgang Rösch, who was to begin his service as Vicar General in 2014, to administer the diocese while the investigation continues.