Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Franc Kramberger of Maribor, Slovenia under circumstances that have not yet been clarified. News reports and an archdiocesan official suggest that bad investments have left the Church in disastrous debt.
The 74-year old Archbishop Kramberger's resignation was accepted by the Pope Feb. 3 even though he was still a year shy of retirement age. Under Church law bishops resign before reaching their 75th birthdays in cases of health problems or other grave causes that impede him from carrying out the task.
For Archbishop Kramberger, the serious cause appears to be the enormous debt incurred by the archdiocese during his time there.
Archdiocesan chief financial officer, Lojze Cvikl, told STA news agency that the Maribor Archdiocese has a debt of more than $23 million.
Italy's L'Espresso weekly magazine reported on Jan. 21 that the archdiocese was in dire financial straits after a series of poor investments. Their estimation of the debt was at a much higher level, to the tune of nearly $1.1 billion.
Cvikl explained that the archdiocese had established a business to more easily fund Church-based activities and education. As that business grew, “it started investing... and that proved to be a dangerous activity.”
L'Espresso described in detail a number of investments - from telecommunications and chemicals to building supplies - that had gone awry and left the archdiocese in a heap of trouble. The Vatican, they said, only found out about the problems in 2007.
Archbishop Kramberger had served as Bishop of Maribor from 1980 until 2006 when he was made archbishop. L'Espresso reported that the investments began in the 1990s.
It was only after being tipped off to potential problems raised by a pair of multi-million dollar loans less than four years ago that the Vatican begin its inquiries, according to L'Espresso. The Holy See then sent a special representative in early 2010 to check the conditions of the books on-site. After the representative's report last October, changes in archdiocesan staff and hierarchy began to take place.
The archbishop's successor, Bishop Marjan Turnsek, was named to replace him on Feb. 3. He will be leading efforts to examine how to restructure the archdiocese's holdings to minimize the damage.