Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst

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The Most Reverend
Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst
Bishop emeritus of Limburg
a young bishop of Limburg
Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst in 2012
Church Roman Catholic
See Limburg
In office 28 November 2007–26 March 2014
Predecessor Franz Kamphaus
Ordination 26 May 1985
Consecration 18 January 2004
by Reinhard Lettmann
Personal details
Born (1959-11-20) 20 November 1959 (age 54)
Twisteden, Kleve, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Previous post Titular bishop of Girus Tarasii
Auxiliary Bishop of Münster
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Styles of
Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst
Coat of arms of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst.svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Bishop

Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst (born 20 November 1959) is a German Roman Catholic bishop and theologian. He was a vicar and an auxiliary bishop in Münster before becoming the Bishop of Limburg in January 2008. On 23 October 2013, he was suspended by the Vatican from the exercise of his episcopal office. The reasons have not been specified, but are believed related to the controversies on his expenses which earned him the "gold-plated bishop" and "bishop of bling" nicknames in the German press and to his having settled a perjury case for €20,000.[1][2] On 26 March 2014, Pope Francis accepted his resignation as Bishop of Limburg.[3][4][5]

Life and ministry[edit]

Tebartz-van Elst was born in Twisteden, the second of five children to a farmer family near the Catholic pilgrimage village of Kevelaer in North Rhine-Westphalia.[6] "van Elst" is a hint that one of his ancestors came from the city of Elst, Gelderland.

Tebartz-van Elst studied philosophy and Catholic theology at Wilhelms University of Münster and the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg, and completed further theological studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. From 1990 to 1996 he was vicar and chaplain at St. Paul's Cathedral in Münster, before receiving a teaching appointment at the University of Münster. His work in pastoral theology focused on the baptism and catechism for adults, and his manual for adult baptism reflects his focus on adult evangelism to Catholicism in an increasingly secular Germany.[7][8]

It has been reported that Tebartz-van Elst was considered a defender of liberal causes inside the church until Benedict XVI was chosen pope (2005).[9] In 2003, he was appointed titular bishop of Girus Tarasii and auxiliary for the Diocese of Münster by Pope John Paul II.[6] On 28 November 2007, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Bishop of Limburg.[6]

Early Controversies[edit]

Tebartz-van Elst was frequently criticized in the German press. In 2008, he made headlines for admonishing one of his priests, the Rev. Peter Kollas, for, jointly with a Lutheran pastor, blessing a homosexual couple. The bishop argued that the relationship, being homosexual, did not conform to Catholic teachings; Kollas argued that offering a blessing contradicted no norms of Catholic practice. Citing broken trust, the bishop removed Kollas from an administrative appointment within the diocese, while leaving him as pastor of his local church in Wetzlar.

In 2012 the press inquired into Tebartz-van Elst's travel arrangements on a trip to India earlier that year, suggesting that the bishop and his travel companion had flown in first class. While certainly not illegal, that would not have fit well with the church's preaching for personal austerity. In the course of the controversy and in order to prevent publication of the news story's, Tebartz-van Elst made sworn statements in court that he had traveled in business class, rather than first class, and thanks to accumulated bonus miles. When the reporter proved that Tebartz-van Elst had, in fact, traveled in first class, Tebartz-van Elst was cited by the state's attorney for perjury and was fined 20,000 €. [10]

Diocesan Centre St. Nicholas[edit]

The diocesan centre St. Nikolaus in Limburg
The Private Chapel St. Maria built 2012
The Old Vikarie house or ″Haus Staffel″, a timber framed building from 1515
The old Clergy house built 1903/04
The old Bischofssitz

In 2002, the Diocese of Limburg committed to financial austerity, cutting the salaries of employees and other expenses.[11] Against this backdrop of austerity, the 2007 diocesan plan for a new 6 million euro building received criticism from the public.[12] The church publicly stated that they were allocating €5.5 million, with €200,000 for the bishop's apartment, €300,000 for his private chapel, €500,000 for the administrative and guest area, two million euros for the renovation of the historic walls and display of archaeological finds and €2.5 million for the rehabilitation and the sexton of the Old Vikarie house.[13] The architect Michael Frielinghaus declared on 14 October 2013 that the 2010 figure of €5.5 million was always understood to be well below the true cost of the project[14]

In October 2013 the German press called for Tebartz-van Elst to resign after the building costs of the Limburg's bishop residence (since 2012, officially called "Diözesanzentrum", which can be seen as a euphemism) topped €31 million. The bishop's private apartment include "$20,000 bathtub, $500,000 in built in closets and a $35,000 conference table."[15][16][17][18][19][20] Of those €5,500,000 initially budgeted, only €600,000 to €800,000 had been formally approved.[21] When the building complex opened on 29 June 2013, the diocese announced that the final "all-in"-costs would be €9,850,000. It disclaimed this number just one day later, after an internal audit committee complained that the number was totally unrealistic. With liability for damage to neighbouring buildings included, the estimated cost was updated to €40 million on 12 October 2013.[22]

On 13 October 2013, Tebartz-van Elst went to Rome to make a plea to Pope Francis[17] and they met on 21 October 2013.[23] On 23 October 2013, Tebartz-van Elst was suspended by Pope Francis as Bishop of Limburg. In his absence, the bishop's diocese has been administered by Limburg's vicar general, Wolfgang Rösch.[24]

Tebartz-van Elst is currently living at Santa Maria dell'Anima college in Rome and the Benedictine Abbey of Metten in Bavaria. He indicated that he hoped to return to Limburg.[25]

The board of investigation lined up by the congregation of German bishops[26] found incriminating material according to reports published on 9 January 2014.[27] A secret registry was built up in a conspiracy flat specially rented for the purpose mentioned before.[28] Due to missing keys entry was delayed. Nevertheless, some of the documents discovered were unknown until entry and they carry the signature of Tebartz-van Elst.

The costs estimated are now far above the costs estimated of €31 million.

On 17 February 2014 new details became public about the state of the investigation.[29]

On 4 March 2014 the inquisition report was finalized.[30]


Tebartz van Elst defended himself even though he was removed from his position and remained unapologetic.[31] He said that the vicar general was responsible (for the deteriorated situation). The diocese has new guidance under the apostolic administrator.

Tebartz van-Elst commented on what he found in the diocese to be "an administrative situation which was mainly father-figure-addicted, hardly factual and disordered. He invested in quality due to other bad experiences with construction projects in the diocese. Though, only the vicar general had total overview over financial matters".[32]

The statement of the Vatican said that a fruitful execution of the bishop's duty could not be expected any more from Tebartz van Elst.[33] The state attorney in Limburg is now examining whether Tebartz van-Elst's actions constituted a criminal activity after obtaining the report from the investigation board. [34][35]

On 28 March 2014, Tebart van Elst visited the Pope. The main outcome of their discussion was that Tebartz van Elst told the waiting reporters afterwards that "with the knowledge of today I discern that I made failures. Though they were never my intention they obliterated trust."[36]

Though he was suspended from office on 23 October 2013, he extended a contract for a 500-class BMW in January 2014.[37]


  1. ^ "Vatican suspends 'bishop of bling'". BBC News. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  2. ^ PRESSEMITTEILUNG DES HEILIGEN STUHLS HINSICHTLICH DER DIÖZESE LIMBURG (DEUTSCHLAND), 23.10.2013 (not available in English). The second sentence may be translated as "In the diocese, a situation has occurred in which [... he ...] cannot exercise his ministration as a bishop." In the fourth sentence (... hält der Heilige Stuhl es für angeraten, S.E. Mons. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst eine Zeit außerhalb der Diözese zu gewähren) may be understood as an order to stay outside the Diocese of Limburg.
  3. ^ "pope interdicts return to Limburg (Protzbischof: Papst untersagt Rückkehr nach Limburg)". 
  4. ^ "3D imagery of construction zones". 
  5. ^ "Rom - Der Papst hat entschieden: Limburg bekommt einen neuen Bischof, der umstrittene Kirchenmann Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst wird nicht zurückkehren.". 
  6. ^ a b c "Bistum Limburg: Bischof". Bistum Limburg. 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2013.  (German)
  7. ^ Handbook of Adult Baptism: liturgy and preaching in the catechumenate, Franz-Peter Tebartz van Elst, Aschendorff Verlag, 2002
  8. ^ Right to religious freedom versus Mission: Christian Europe to the test, Peter Krämer, LIT Verlag Münster, 2007, including S. 154
  9. ^ "¿Debe estar la Iglesia más atenta a los excesos de los obispos? | DW.DE | 12.10.2013". Deutsche Welle. 20 October 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  10. ^ "Das Lügengebäude". Der Spiegel. 14 October 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2013.  (German); Carol J. Williams, "Germany's shamed 'Bishop of Bling' pays fine to settle court case", Los Angeles Times, 18 November 2013; German 'Luxury Bishop' Tebartz-van Elst pays fine for lying under oath
  11. ^ "Bistum Limburg – Sparen und Erneuern – Archiv Sparen und erneuern". Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  12. ^ "Wir sind Kirche Deutschland". 29 December 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  13. ^ "Der Bischof zeigt sein Haus | Frankfurter Neue Presse". Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  14. ^ "Bistum Limburg – Architekt belastet Bischof Tebartz-van Elst – Panorama – Sü". Süddeutsche Zeitung. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ "German bishop faces grilling over lavish lifestyle". Asia One. AsiaOne.Com. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  17. ^ a b "Germany's 'luxury bishop' makes plea to Pope Francis". BBC News. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  18. ^ "Bishop under fire for luxury residence". ABS-CBN. abs-cbnnews.Com. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  19. ^ "German bishop could face Vatican inquisition on lavish spending". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  20. ^ "CNN VIDEO-Germany: bling bishop". CNN. Retrieved 19 October 2013. 
  21. ^ „Der Bischof ist ein raffinierter Betrüger oder krank“ Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
  22. ^ Limburger Bischofssitz wird nochmals deutlich teurer Die Welt
  23. ^ "Il vescovo che spende troppo a tu per tu con il Papa – Vatican Insider". La Stampa. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  24. ^ "workers try to topple Tebartz van Elst – Hell unleashed in the diocese (German)". NTV. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  25. ^ Hernandez, Vittorio.'German Bling Bishop retreats to Bavarian for a more Austere life'. 2 November 2013. International Business Times. Retrieved 30 December 2013
  26. ^ Episcopal Conference
  27. ^
  28. ^ Skandalbischof: Kommission präsentiert Beweise
  29. ^ "N-TV Video: Tebartz van Elst takes it from the poor". Retrieved 2014-02-17. 
  30. ^ "Untersuchung abgeschlossen, Bericht im VatikanPapst entscheidet über Tebartz-van Elst". German N-TV. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  31. ^ "Tebartz van Elst accuses vicar general for being responsible (for the deteriorated situation)". DPA. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  32. ^ "Religion:Vicar general was responsible". Austrian Television-ORF. Austrian Television-ORF. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  33. ^ "Vatican statement word by word". Der Spiegel. Der Spiegel. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  34. ^ "Staatsanwaltschaft prüft Limburg-Bericht". Frankfurt's Allgemeine Zeitung. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  35. ^ "Taz:picture of vicar". Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  36. ^ "Tebartz van Elst admits to failures". German NTV. 
  37. ^ "Tebartz van Elst had contract for 5xx BMW renewed". Retrieved 2014-03-29.