German 'bling bishop' settles legal case

Germany's embattled "bling bishop" Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst has settled a court case over lying under oath with a 20,000-euro ($27,000) payment, the court said Monday.

The Roman Catholic bishop has also been under fire for extravagant spending on his official residence and was last month indefinitely relieved of his clerical duties by Pope Francis.

The legal headache he faced centred on a tussle with Hamburg-based news weekly Der Spiegel, which had reported that he flew first class to visit slum dwellers in India.

Tebartz-van Elst, 53, had later told a Spiegel journalist that "we flew business class" but then in sworn testimony denied having said those words.

However, the reporter had videotaped the bishop making the comment.

The Hamburg court said the state treasury had received the 20,000-euro payment and, with the consent of prosecutors, closed the case.

The bishop has meanwhile stayed out of the public eye since the pope sent him on leave from the diocese on October 23.

Tebartz-van Elst had faced outrage over the ostentatious building project, which includes a museum, conference halls, a chapel and private apartments, in the ancient town of Limburg in central Hesse state.

The project was initially valued at 5.5 million euros but the cost ballooned to 31 million euros, including a 783,000-euro garden and a 15,000-euro bathtub -- using the revenue from a religious tax in Germany.

The scandal sparked calls for greater transparency in Catholic Church finances, a reform aim of the new pope who has called for a "poor Church for the poor".

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