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Atlanta archbishop apologizes for posh residence

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In this March 31, 2014 photo, the former residence of Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory sits under construction to be used as a rectory for six priests after Gregory moved to a nearby $2.2 million mansion for his own use in Atlanta. Gregory apologized for his spending and offered to put the home up for sale after Pope Francis permanently removed a German bishop for his lavish spending on a renovation project. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

In this March 31, 2014 photo, the former residence of Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory sits under construction to be used as a rectory for six priests after Gregory moved to a nearby $2.2 million mansion for his own use in Atlanta. Gregory apologized for his spending and offered to put the home up for sale after Pope Francis permanently removed a German bishop for his lavish spending on a renovation project. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

In this March 31, 2014 photo, Laura Mullins, Laura Mullins, a parishioner of Christ the King Cathedral, stands for a photo outside the former residence of Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory, which will now be used as the church’s rectory in Atlanta. Gregory apologized for spending $2.2 million on a mansion for his own personal use. The apology came after Pope Francis permanently removed a German bishop for his lavish spending on a renovation project. Mullins arranged a meeting with Gregory in January during which she and nine other Catholics asked him to sell the new mansion. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

In this March 31, 2014 photo, Laura Mullins, a parishioner of Christ the King Cathedral, stands for a photo outside the former residence of Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory, which will now be used as the church’s rectory in Atlanta. Gregory apologized for spending $2.2 million on a mansion for his own personal use. The apology came after Pope Francis permanently removed a German bishop for his lavish spending on a renovation project. Mullins arranged a meeting with Gregory in January during which she and nine other Catholics asked him to sell the new mansion. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

In this March 31, 2014, photo the new $2.2 million mansion that is the residence of Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory stands in the upscale Buckhead neighborhood in Atlanta. Gregory apologized for his spending and offered to put the home up for sale after Pope Francis permanently removed a German bishop for his lavish spending on a renovation project. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

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ATLANTA (AP) — Archbishop Wilton Gregory seems to have gotten the pope’s message about modest living.

Days after Pope Francis permanently removed a German bishop for his lavish spending on a new residence, the Atlanta archbishop apologized for building a $2.2 million mansion as his residence. He bowed to criticism from local parishioners and said he’d consider selling the new home in Buckhead, Atlanta’s toniest neighborhood.

In letters, emails and meetings, local Catholics told Gregory the price tag was outlandish, especially in light of Francis’ frugality. The Tudor-style mansion, stretching nearly 6,400 square feet, includes two dining rooms and a safe room. The archbishop said the new pope has “set the bar” for church leaders and others, and Gregory said he hadn’t looked at the project’s cost in terms of his own “integrity and pastoral credibility.”

“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,” Gregory wrote late Monday on the website of the archdiocesan newspaper.

It’s a challenge bishops will be facing more pointedly — and publicly — in the age of Francis.

In the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., parishioners have recently criticized Archbishop John Myers, and withheld some donations, after they learned the archdiocese was spending at least $500,000 to expand his retirement home, adding an indoor therapy pool, fireplaces and an office library. Last week, Francis removed German bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst after he spent $43 million on a new residence and related renovations.

“More people are thinking about it, how to tone it down as far as their living arrangements,” said Russell Shaw, a former spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a Catholic writer.

The Vatican declined comment Tuesday.

Pope Francis has made clear he expects his priests and bishops to follow his example of sobriety, imploring them to refrain from driving fancy cars or using the latest iPhone. To emphasize the point, Francis convened the heads of all Vatican offices Tuesday to discuss implementing his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel.”

In the statement, a blueprint for his papacy, Francis denounces the “idolatry of money,” self-indulgence and “insidious worldliness” within the church, and laments how the poor have been excluded from the global economy. Francis has implemented a spending review within the Vatican, enacting a hiring freeze and overtime cut in a bid to reduce waste.

Gregory’s new residence was made possible by a $15 million gift from the nephew of Margaret Mitchell, the author of the Civil War epic “Gone With The Wind.” When Joseph Mitchell died in 2011, he left much of his estate to the archdiocese, asking that the proceeds be used for “general religious and charitable purposes.” Mitchell sought primary consideration for his home parish, Christ the King Cathedral.

The archdiocese set aside $7.5 million for the cathedral’s building fund. Another $3.75 million went to Catholic Charities and other service groups, and several million more went to disadvantaged parishes, parish endowments, a retirement fund for priests and a Jesuit high school.

But Gregory needed a new home after giving up his residence near the cathedral, where more space was needed for a growing congregation.

The cathedral used money from Mitchell to buy Gregory’s old home for $1.9 million, according to tax records. The church will spend another $292,000 to expand the home so its priests can live there. The archbishop

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