Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Two Popes Are None Too Many

Before Francis and Benedict exchanged the brotherly kiss the latter
 had taken off his white zucchetto (skullcap) as a sign of deference (©afp).
Zwei Päpste sind keiner zu viel was the title of an article in the Badische Zeitung on February 24, referring to the first public appearance of former Pope Benedict. He who had said following his resignation that he would like to live hidden from the world assisted in the consecration ceremony for 19 new cardinals on Saturday, February 22. Among them was our new man in the Vatican Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, somewhat long for Roman Inquisitor. Insiders rumored that 86 year old Benedict, who had been the supreme guardian of the faith during 24 years before being elected pope, wanted to meet his successor.

Pope Francis puts the cardinal's hat on Gerhard Ludwig Müller's head (©dpa)
Following his elevation, Müller invited to a Volksfest in Rot-Weiß-Blau as Freiburg's Sunday paper Der Sonntag reported. No, the color sequence cited does neither refer to the French tricolor (bleu-blanc-rouge) nor to the flag of the Russian Federation (белый-синий-красный) but is an allusion to the scarlet red of the cardinals and the colors of Bavaria: weiß-blau. In fact, Müller, a born Rhinelander, had invited to a Bavarian Brotzeit (second breakfast) with Bratwurst, Leberkäse (meatloaf), potato salad, and beer brewed according to the original Bavarian Purity Law. Knowing that Benedict adores Bavarian Schmankerln (goodies), the new cardinal tried to lure his predecessor to the party. The latter, however, preferred to return to his books to read and to write.

Among the new cardinal's distinguished guests there were people well known in Germany as Gloria, the Princess of Thurn and Taxis, Ernst von Freyberg, the CIO of the Banco di Vaticano, Hermann Gröhe, Christian Democrat and German Federal Minister of Health, and unexpectedly Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the still Bishop of Limburg.

Remember my blog about the ugliest word (Unwort) of the year 2013? The word was GroKo for Grand Coalition, but the word Protz-Bischof came in second, and the ostentatious bishop is nobody else than Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst.

The story goes like this: In 2004, Limburg's cathedral chapter proposed to re-build the episcopal see. Following some protests about the costs, the cathedral chapter decided at the end of 2007 to cap the expenses at 1.65 million euros. This ceiling was raised to 2 million in February 2008 and had eventually increased to 5.5 million in 2012. When the diocesan center opened in June 2013, the total building costs were given as 9,85 million euros. Germany's Catholics were appalled.

The Protzbau of Bishop Tebartz-van Elst seen from Limburg's cathedral on the right.
Note the atrium in the middle of the building complex (©epa/dpa)
To make a long story short. Pope Francis suspended the luxurious bishop, and a board of inquiry was installed. Tabartz-van Elst now spends his time oscillating between a Bavarian monastery and the Vatican while the public is still waiting for the final report of the investigation.

Meanwhile, the total costs are estimated to be even higher than 31 million euros, and it appears that money collected for the poor had been (ab)used on the project.

Germany is one of the very few countries in the world where people compulsory pay an up to 10% addition to their regular tax as a church tax (either to the Catholic or the Lutheran Church). Catholics thinking about their tax money being spent on the bishop's luxury presently leave their Church by the thousands just to avoid paying the church tax.

The bishop proudly presents his atrium with fountain (©alliance/dpa)
Today February 26, 2014, the German public is still waiting for the report of the board of inquiry. Is this a good or a bad sign?

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