German bishop faces grilling over lavish lifestyle

VATICAN CITY - A German bishop was in Rome on Monday to explain himself to Pope Francis after facing multiple calls to resign over his big-spending lifestyle.

Bishop of Limburg Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst flew in on Sunday with Irish low-cost airline Ryanair - following accusations he took a first-class ticket on a trip to India.

Germany's top Catholic cleric Robert Zollitsch criticised the bishop and said he would also meet the pope this week to discuss the scandal, saying it should not remain "without consequences".

"This weighs on us," Zollitsch told reporters, adding that he could "not take a position" on the legal procedure in Germany against the bishop.

"It is the bishop of Limburg who should take a position," Zollitsch said, adding that he should respond "with a spirit of self-critcism".

The 53-year-old bishop is under pressure to resign after using church funds to build himself a diocese headquarters with a museum, conference halls, a chapel and private apartments.

The ostentatious project in the ancient town of Limburg was approved by his predecessor and was initially valued at 5.5 million euros but the final bill ballooned to 31 million euros (US$42 million).

Critics within and outside the church have contrasted the costly architectural project with the more humble style of Pope Francis and asked how much good the money could do if used as aid in poverty-stricken African countries.

Pope Francis has called for a "poor Church for the poor" and has condemned high-roller clerics.