General view of the ensemble of the bishop's residence with the bishop's private chapel (C) in Limburg
General view of the ensemble of the bishop\'s residence with the bishop\'s private chapel (C) in Limburg (Reuters)

Pope Francis has temporarily expelled German bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, dubbed the "Bishop of Bling", over a scandal regarding his €31million (£26m, $40m) project to renew a sumptuous diocesan residence in the western small city of Limburg.

The Vatican said Tebartz-van Elst "could no longer exercise his episcopal ministry" and Limbrug's newly named vicar general, Monsignor Wolfgang Roesch would administer the diocese.

"The Holy See deems it appropriate to authorise a period of leave from the diocese for Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst," the Vatican said in a statement.

"The Holy Father has been continuously and objectively informed of the situation," it said.

The 53-year-old bishop indulged on £30,000 for built-in cupboards and carpentry, £83,000 for the windows of the chapel and more than £371,000 on works of art, using revenue from a religious tax in Germany. He even splurged £12,000 for a bathtub, causing indignation in Germany.

The project was approved by his predecessor for €5.5million but the Tebartz-van Elst's final bill mushroomed to €31million.

The German news magazine headlined with "Pimping the diocese" and even German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she hopes "that there will be an answer for believers, for people's confidence in their Church".

The bishop is also accused of giving false statement in court about an expensive flight he took to visit India to visit poor communities. That is also the reason why he embarked on a low-cost Ryanair flight to the Vatican last week to explain Francis, who has displayed humility since his election in March, about his luxurious conduct.

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst has denied any wrongdoing but has apologised for any "carelessness or misjudgement on my part."

Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Treves, in West Germany, last week told Germany's public television chain ARD that the situation has "escalated to the extent that bishop Franz-Peter can no longer on principle work in Limburg."

Jesuit Pope Francis has made several humble gestures since coming to office. The pontiff has opted for the modest Casa Santa Marta instead of moving into the lavish papal palace in the Vatican. He has called for the Catholic Church to get rid of earthly concerns warning ""worldliness is a murderer because it kills souls, kills people, kills the Church."

He has also accused church leaders of being "narcissists".