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Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, who was advised by the Pope to take time out from his diocese last October after allegedly spending €31m on renovating his palace, has been visiting his diocese regularly in recent weeks.
According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAZ), Tebartz has been spending several days a month in his apartment in the bishop’s palace. The FAZ recalled that Tebartz had said that he wanted to return to his diocese and that Cardinal Meisner of Cologne, CDF Prefect Archbishop Gerhard Müller and Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Master of the Papal Household, all supported his return.
Limburg’s diocesan spokesman, Stephan Schnelle, confirmed that Tebartz has been visiting the diocese regularly “for personal reasons”. This was not forbidden or “dishonourable”, Mr Schnelle, said, “as Tebartz was neither in exile nor had he been banned from his diocese”.
The special commission appointed by the German bishops’ conference to audit Limburg’s finances is expected to publish its report later this month.
Referring to the turbulence in the diocese of Limburg and the harsh criticism of the bishop’s extravagance, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, co-ordinator of the group of eight cardinals appointed to advise the Pope on curial reform, said it would be a great pity if events in one small German diocese were allowed to cast a shadow on the German Church’s generosity.
“Many Churches help the poorest of the poor but none of them can compete with the German Church. For more than 50 years the German aid organisation Adveniat has been the greatest benefactor of the Church in Latin America,” the cardinal said.