Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst

October 28, 2013

After giving a morning Mass homily on the virtue of poverty, Pope Francis held a private meeting Oct. 21 with a German bishop under fire for a massive building project that critics have denounced as extravagant.

The Vatican press office announced the pope's meeting with Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, but would not comment on details of their discussion.

Pope Francis made no mention of the bishop at Mass that morning, but he focused his homily on how money can destroy families and relationships. Material goods must be used to benefit others or they risk becoming idols and the object of conflict, he said.

The German program of Vatican Radio said it was unlikely Pope Francis would order any changes in the diocese before the completion of an audit commissioned by the German bishops' conference, unless Bishop Tebartz-van Elst "offers his resignation."

Tebartz-van Elst, who arrived in Rome Oct. 13, has been a target of protests for allegedly spending close to $40 million in renovations and new construction on his residence and diocesan offices, and for allegedly making false statements in court.

Tebartz-van Elst has been accused of living extravagantly while cutting diocesan programs, and critics have suggested that the renovation and construction project may have been funded in an improper way.

The German media, which often refer to Tebartz-van Elst as the "luxury bishop," have been following him closely and frequently mention Pope Francis' simple lifestyle as a contrast.