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Catholic 'Bishop of Bling' suspended for cash -

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TONY EASTLEY: The Pope has taken the unusual step of suspending the German Church leader known as the 'Bishop of Bling' because of his apparent lavish lifestyle.

Bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, has been accused of spending around $40 million renovating his official residence.

Europe correspondent Philip Williams takes up the story.

(Sound of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst speaking)

PHILIP WILLIAMS: This is the good bishop in happier days. Well, he was officiating at a funeral, but his stocks were still high.

But then the stories started getting around that he'd spent tens of millions fixing up his official residence that is alleged to have included a $20,000 bath and a $35,000 conference table. He has also been accused of flying first class to India to visit the poor.

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst was fast developing a bad reputation in a country where taxpayers' money supports the churches.

Dr Daniel Deckers is the Catholic Affairs Editor for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper .

DANIEL DECKERS: You have sort of material damage probably done to the funds which belong to the bishops see, not to him personally. But you have a sort of spiritual damage. There are so many people around not only in Limburg downtown but all in the diocese and even the Catholic Church in Germany who feel really betrayed by the way the Bishop presented himself, that he really acted, let's say, as a liar.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: So the man dubbed the " Bishop of Bling" was invited to Rome and an audience with the Pope, usually a privilege and a pleasure, but for the new Pontiff the message of modest living seems not to have reached Limburg.

Father Federico Lombardi from the Holy See press office explained the Bishop was being moved on.

(Sound of Father Federico Lombardi speaking)

"The current situation in the diocese makes it impossible for Monsignor Peter Tebarz-van Alst to exercise his ministry for the moment," he said.

The Bishop now has two hurdles ahead - facing canon law and an investigation by German state prosecutors over the way he spent a fortune. And perhaps a third, his maker who may have a few questions of his own.

This is Philip Williams reporting for AM.