As was reported by the media everywhere in Europe and the whole catholic world our bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst has caused a media tsunami because of the luxury residence he got constructed for himself and also for his autocratic stile of government which resulted in expelling long term qualified personnel because they had dared to criticise him. And to top all this he was trapped with an obvious lie when he was asked about a first class flight to India to visit slum projects for children. You could see and hear him in the internet because the sequence was filmed by the interviewing team. Only by admitting the lie to the court he escaped a sentence but had to pay 20000 €.
In October 2013 – the admitted costs of the residence had risen from the planned 5,5 million to 31 million € - the pope ordered Tebartz to take a leave and appointed a new general vicar til a commission would have investigated the facts. Finally on March 26, 2014 was destituted but kept his title as bishop. 5 months the diocese was more or less blocked and held in uncertainty. For some in the hierarchy Tebartz was the spearhed of conservative catholicism who was chased by an anticatholic mob. The recently retired Cardinal of Cologne, Meisner, the newly named Cardinal Müller, head of the congregation of faith, and archbishop Gänswein, right hand of Pope Benedikt did their best to influence pope Francis that way. I must confess that when Cardinal Müller played out his personal friendship with Gustavo Guttierez, founder of liberation theology, now 85, whom Müller invited to the Vatican, I expected the pope to avoid a clear decision for Limburg.
The irony is that while the bishop spent „his“ money (out of a special budget called the budget of the bishop's chair) and even though the church tax went up because of the general economic recovery in Germany a program „Saving and Renewal“ is still persued which results in the destruction of churches and parish centers which are regarded as too big and too costly. I am personally extremely frustrated because the bodies of my parish have accepted and even want to tear down our parish center which only 40 years ago was designed by the parish community together with the architect as a model for the integration of the holy and the profane which was never again allowed in the whole diocese: We celebrate the Eucharist at an altar which can be removed to use the same room for some profane purpose like celebrating carnival for instance.
I like pope Francis for his open and modest attitude but I am afraid that he takes too much time for his reform program which he hides in his mind. Will he abolish obligatory celibacy for priests? Will women in our church accept any longer that the good pope needs 140 pages in his first own Encyclical before he talks about women for one short chapter? In an opinion poll ordered some years ago by the German bishops they were warned that young women would no longer accept their role in the Roman-Catholic church and would no longer bring their babies for baptism.
In the meantime bishop Tebartz-van Elst was removed from his post and an auxiliary bishop from Paderborn named as preliminary administrator of the diocese, who comes to Limburg for three days per week.
It is a historical event that a bishop is removed by will of the people but the future is open and none of the general problems is solved: democratic participation of the people for the election of the new bishop, ordination of women and married persons, abolishment of obligatory celibacy, dialogue on eye level with other christian denominations, other religions and non-believers.
Gerd Wild, Secretary Initiative Christenrechte in der Kirche