“The center serves the entire diocese”

It should be ready by the end of June 2013: The new official residence of Limburg Catholic Bishop Franz Peter Tebartz-van Elst. The ensemble of buildings on Limburg Cathedral Hill made headlines across Germany. Critics criticized, among other things, the cost and the nature and scope of the construction work in the heart of the medieval city center. In an interview with the Catholic News Agency (KNA) on Saturday, the bishop explained what the "Diocesan Center St. St. Nicholas" means. And why he continues to stand behind the decision to build it, made by the cathedral chapter before he took office.



CBA: Mr. Bishop, in the "Diocesan Center St. Nikolaus" you should have your new official residence, your apartment and your chapel in the summer of next year. How exactly will it look there?

Tebartz-van Elst: The very name "Diocesan Center St. Nicholas" says that the center serves the entire diocese. By far the largest part of the building is taken up by conference rooms, interview rooms, an event hall in the basement, staff offices, the Cathedral Sacristy branch, the reference and working library for staff and me, guest rooms, the chapel, which covers just under 60 square meters, and some technical and basement rooms. In the rear part of the building, three rooms will be available as an apartment for the diocesan bishop: a combined dining and living room next to the kitchen and, on the floor below, a bedroom with an adjoining bathroom.
CBA: Where have you lived so far?

Tebartz-van Elst: My workplace and that of my co-workers is currently located in rooms of the Episcopal Ordinariate in Limburg's Old Town. On the other hand, I have lived so far in the former seminary of the diocese. Since it has no longer served as a pastoral seminary for the training of priests for several years, it has become a well-frequented conference and event location with a lot of public traffic. Apart from this often impractical spatial separation, the conference operation in the former seminary also makes it very difficult to organize the episcopal ministry of leadership spiritually and organizationally. These diverse demands on the ministry of a bishop will be met by the future "Diocesan Center St. St. Nicholas" coherently just.
CBA: Nevertheless, we asked again: What exactly is meant by the term "Diocesan Center" and why is it under the patronage of St. Nicholas??

Tebartz-van Elst: The term "Diocesan Center" refers to the content-related orientation and purpose of the building ensemble. It bundles the various functions for the Limburg diocese: it is a spiritual center, a workplace for the diocesan bishop and his staff, and a conference and meeting place. Against this background, it will be under the patronage of St. Nicholas, who is the second patron of the diocese. The High Cathedral Church – just across the street – bears the patronage of St. George, the first patron of the diocese.
CBA: It will probably not be possible to keep to the original budget of around 5.5 million euros.

Tebartz-van Elst: A serious information about the costs of the stabilization of the medieval wall at the property boundaries, the extensive monument renovations of the Old Vicarage, which is in danger of collapsing, the former sexton's house as well as the new building on the demolition site of an asbestos-contaminated building from the 1960s can only be made after all work has been completed.
CBA: Are you nevertheless confident that the center will be accepted by the faithful in your diocese?

Tebartz-van Elst: When people see the attention to detail with which it has been renovated and repaired, how excellently the craftsmen have implemented the specifications of the preservation order, and how the modern building fits into the surrounding historic buildings, I am confident. In the event room in the basement, directly next to the foundations of a historic fortified tower of the city fortifications, which was only found during the construction work, the diocese will hold discussion and meeting events, which will then also be accessible to the participating faithful and the citizens. In this way, in addition to the numerous visits and visitations in the diocese, I get into conversation with the people.
CBA: The extensive construction measures were decided by the Limburg Cathedral Chapter at the beginning of 2007, i.e. before your term of office. How did it come about, and would you as bishop have had the opportunity to make cuts afterwards??

Tebartz-van Elst: The building measure was decided by the Limburg cathedral chapter at the beginning of the sedis vacancy in February 2007 – about a year before I came to Limburg, when it was not yet clear who would be the new diocesan bishop. The cathedral chapter had considered the working and living situation of the future bishops of Limburg and decided that they – as in many other dioceses in Germany – should live and work in the immediate vicinity of the cathedral. With that, I was charged with continuing this decision, and it is evident from my five years of experience in the provisional arrangement how necessary and correct it is. Since the financing of the entire project had already been secured since that time and had not been set up at the expense of the parishes of the diocese, it also seems responsible.

The interview was conducted by Joachim Heinz,

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