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US archbishop apologises for $2.2m mansion

By on Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta (CNS)

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta (CNS)

An American archbishop has said sorry for building a $2.2 million mansion for himself, after complaints from Catholics that it contradicted Pope Francis’s call for austerity.

According to the Associated Press, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, who was president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2001 to 2004, recently moved into a home measuring nearly 6,400 sq ft. The property was built after a donation from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, nephew of Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With The Wind. When Mitchell died in 2011, he left more than $15 million to the archdiocese on the condition it be used for “general religious and charitable purposes.”

“I am disappointed that, while my advisers and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia,” Gregory wrote in a column for The Georgia Bulletin.

“I failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the Archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services.”

Archbishop Wilton said members of his archdiocese had voiced criticism over the cost of the mansion in letters, emails and telephone messages, adding that if Church officials want him to sell the home he would do so. In January, a group of Catholics from the archdiocese reportedly met with the archbishop and asked that he sell the large home and return to his old residence. They brought up the example of Pope Francis, who refused to move into the Vatican palace after his election.

“The example of the Holy Father, and the way people of every sector of our society have responded to his message of gentle joy and compassion without pretense, has set the bar for every Catholic and even for many who don’t share our communion,” Gregory said.

For the full text of Archbishop Gregory’s column go here.