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Bishop’s spending at issue in Vatican

The Rev. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, bishop of Limburg, is meeting with  Vatican officials.

Associated Press/file

The Rev. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, bishop of Limburg, is meeting with Vatican officials.

BERLIN — A German bishop under fire for lavish spending traveled to Rome on Sunday for talks at the Vatican, church officials said, placing his future in the hands of a pope who has espoused a simple lifestyle.

Allegations of excessive spending by the Rev. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, bishop of Limburg, have stirred controversy among Roman Catholics in the country where Martin Luther launched the Reformation five centuries ago in response to what he said were church excesses and abuses.

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A spokesman for the diocese of Limburg, Martin Wind, told the German news agency dpa Tebartz-van Elst was meeting with church officials but gave no details. German media said he made the trip aboard a budget airline.

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 told the Bild newspaper the bill was actually for 10 projects and there were additional costs because of regulations on buildings under historical protection.

The controversy has split the 24 million-member Catholic community in Germany as the church struggles with diminishing numbers of followers. ‘‘It hurts me because of the impression that wasting money is a core feature of the church,’’ Julia Kloeckner, deputy chairwoman of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, said.

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