Monday, August 20, 2012

Bishop travels first class to visit the slums of India

The Catholic Bishop of Limburg is again faced with financial waste allegations. He has flown first class to India, where he visited social projects, reports Der Spiegel. The diocese justifies the first class travel.

The first class flight of Limburg Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst to India met with incomprehension. "Expensive tickets to the poorest of the poor is not following the way Jesus lived," said Henny Toepfer, the spokeswoman of the reform movement "We Are Church" in the Diocese of Limburg, on Monday.

According to a report by the German news magazine "Der Spiegel", the bishop was flown first class to India on official business. On the return flight, the chief shepherd had indulged in first class seats with his Vicar General Franz Kaspar. Ticket Price and Mileage Upgrade for the round-trip amounted to a value of around 7000 euros per person, according to the magazine. The promotion to the first class was made privately with the help of bonus miles from the Vicar General, "Spiegel" was told by the Diocese.

Diocese: used private air miles

The Diocese of Limburg responded on Sunday to the report and explained that the bishop was unjustly accused of extravagance. The long-haul flights were in accordance with the travel regulations of the German Bishops' Conference and were booked by the Diocese. There were no implications for the Diocesan accounts. The trip was financed by funds from the Episcopal See. Overall, the trip had cost about 8300 euros.

The diocese took the premium tickets so that the nine-hour flight should be used for sleeping. The Bishop would be rested to begin an extensive and strenuous program in India, as he would be returning to his everyday working life in the diocese. Only in the highest class, could the seats be transformed into recliners. "The privately paid upgrade to the highest class of service served only the maintenance of the efficiency of both travelers. This was exclusively a financial burden o the private account of the Vicar General."

Criticism of the handling of church property

The mission of 10 to 14 January has been used for the assessment of five social and charitable projects of the Church in India, according to the diocese. It was a very tight program that usually would have to be extended over more days and "would have cost a lot more," it was claimed.

Catholics in his diocese criticize Tebartz-van Elst because of the way he deals with church property. The criticism has been ignited in particular around the new episcopal residence near to Limburg Cathedral, which costs at least EUR 5.5 million.

The diocese said: The "financing of the entire project" is justifiable. The complex serves the rest of the entire diocese and had already been decided upon about a year before the current bishop entered service. The bishop could have the use of a three-room apartment in the rear of the building.

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