Pope Francis temporarily expelled a German bishop from his diocese today because of a scandal over a $42 million project to build a new residence complex, but he refused popular calls to remove him. The Vatican didn't say how long Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst would spend away from the diocese of Limburg. But it said Limburg's newly named vicar general, the Rev. Wolfgang Roesch, would run the diocese during Tebartz-van Elst's "period of time away." In a statement, the Vatican said the situation in the diocese had become such that Tebartz-van Elst "could no longer exercise his episcopal ministry."
The decision was taken after Francis met in the past week with Tebartz-van Elst and the head of the German bishops' conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch. At the center of the controversy is the $42 million price tag for the construction of a bishop's residence complex and related renovations. Tebartz-van Elst has said the bill was actually for 10 projects and there were additional costs because of regulations on buildings under historical protection. (Read more Catholic Church stories.)