The Holy See issued today a statement on the diocese of Limburg, Germany:

With respect to the administration of the Diocese of Limburg in Germany, the Congregation for Bishops thoroughly studied the report of the commission which was established at the request of the bishop and the cathedral chapter. This was in order to undertake a thorough investigation of the authorities involved in the building of the diocesan center “St. Nikolaus.”

In view of the fact that it has come to a situation in the Diocese of Limburg which impedes a fruitful exercise of the episcopal office by His Excellency Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the Holy See has accepted the resignation offered by the bishop on October 20, 2013, and named an apostolic administrator in the person of His Excellency Manfred Grothe.

The departing bishop, His Excellency Tebartz-van Elst, will be entrusted with another assignment within a given time.

The Holy Father implores the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Limburg to accept the decision of the Holy See willingly and to strive to .find their way to a climate of mercy and reconciliation.

From the Vatican website (Pray Tell translation).

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Tebartz-van Elst had his supporters in the German church. Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and former bishop of Regensburg, was one of the strongest. He saw the Limburg bishop as victim of a media campaign, and said at a Mass in Rome in October that the accusations against the bishop were the “invention of journalists.” He ruled out removal of the bishop and claimed that Rome supported the bishop “completely and fully.” He told that Tagespost in September, “The bishop of Limburg will remain.”

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, prefect of the papal household and private secretary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, underscored last September that the German bishops’ conference had no formal right to call for the bishop’s removal. He claimed that the whole discussion wasn’t about church finances at all: “Seen more profoundly, it is a question of faith and the direction [of the church]. Will Tebartz-van Elst lead his diocese as a Catholic bishop, or will the diocese go down its own path?” Gänswein said that in Limburg there were “forces that have a goal other than the clarification of financial matters.” He was seen to refer to criticism of Tebartz-van Elst’s authoritarian and conservative style of leadership.

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At his Wednesday general audience today, Pope Francis spoke on the sacrament of Holy Orders. He called for prayers for bishops and priests who must newly rediscover “the value and the freshness of their vocation.” He emphasized the importance for clergy of prayer, hearing the Word of God, daily celebration of Mass, and regular confession. A bishop who does not live like this “loses unity with Jesus in the long run and becomes mediocre in a way which doesn’t help the church.” The pope said, “A bishop who does not serve the community is not good. A priest who does not serve his community is preposterous.”

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