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Pope suspends free-spending bishop

Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, Bishop of Limburg , Germany stood in the atrium of the chapel at the Bishop's residence in Limburg, Germany in 2012.

Boris Roessler/ DPA, via AP

Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, Bishop of Limburg , Germany stood in the atrium of the chapel at the Bishop's residence in Limburg, Germany in 2012.

BERLIN — Pope Francis, who has made humility and modesty his hallmark, sent a swift and clear message to Roman Catholics around the world Wednesday that he wants all representatives of the church to do the same.

He suspended a German bishop accused of spending millions on lavish renovations to his residence, and forced the chief administrator of the bishop’s diocese into early retirement.

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The bishop, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, of Limburg, Germany, was reported to have allowed costs for his residence and other church buildings to run to more than $41 million. The project drew ridicule in the German media for luxuries like a $20,000 bathtub, a $1.1 million landscaped garden — and a cross to be suspended from the ceiling of a personal chapel that necessitated the opening of a roof.

The pope acted just two days after receiving the bishop in Rome, where he was summoned to explain himself.

The Vatican issued a statement saying that the pope had been “comprehensively and objectively” informed about what was going on in the diocese and that Tebartz-van Elst “currently cannot exercise his office.”

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