Vatican City, Feb 10, 2015 / 16:17 pm
Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the former bishop of Limburg, near Frankfurt, Germany, is to begin a new appointment in March as a delegate on catechesis at the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, the National Catholic Register has learned.
An official at the Pontifical Council confirmed on Monday that Bishop Tebartz-van Elst was appointed in December on behalf of Pope Francis through the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. It follows reports in the German press that the bishop had been appointed to the Council, but that the appointment had been subsequently withdrawn by Pope Francis, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
The Vatican press office refused to comment on the appointment when asked by the Register last week, neither confirming nor denying it had taken place, although Archbishop Georg Gänswein unofficially confirmed the news to Vatican Magazin on Feb. 7.
Bishop Tebartz-van Elst was at the center of allegations that he had approved a $40m remodeling and building project in his diocese that included the bishop's residence. The expensive project had actually been ordered by his predecessor, Bishop Franz Kamphaus, who retired in 2007.
Many believe Tebartz van Elst was the victim of a smear campaign and forced out because of his orthodoxy.
In 2008, he drew the ire of some of the German hierarchy when he dismissed a local priest for blessing a same-sex union. Some local priests also criticized his homilies and statements, and drew up a petition.
Bishop Kamphaus, on the other hand, sparked controversy in the early 2000s by refusing to comply with several request from Pope John Paul II to stop issuing certificates that opened the way for women to have abortions.
The allegations against 55 year-old Bishop Tebartz-van Elst also stand in contrast to the high spending of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, which has just spent $150m on a new diocesan service center.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who heads the archdiocese and is president of the German bishops' conference, has also just had his residence renovated at a cost of $9m, paid for by the state of Bavaria.
But unlike Tebartz-van Elst, the media has paid little attention to the high spending.
The official at the Pontifical Council told the Register Bishop Tebartz-van Elst's position is a new one, and that he had been appointed because his "background is in catechesis."
This article first appeared at the National Catholic Register, Feb. 9, 2015.