Trying to appease angry parishioners, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Atlanta said Saturday that he will sell a $2.2 million mansion just three months after he moved in.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory announced the decision after a closed-door meeting with members of several church councils at his headquarters north of Atlanta. He publicly apologized Monday for building the Tudor-style residence and will move out in early May.
“I have decided to sell the Habersham property and invest the proceeds from that sale into the needs of the Catholic community,” Archbishop Gregory told The Associated Press after the meeting. He declined to take questions.
The archbishop sold his previous home to Christ The King Cathedral, which plans to expand it and house its priests there. The archbishop said this week that if the church sold the new mansion, he would seek to live in a setting more modest than his current or previous home.
A group of Catholics in Archbishop Gregory’s archdiocese had asked since January that he sell the nearly 6,400-square-foot mansion in keeping with the tone of austerity set by Pope Francis. Elected last year, Francis said he wants a church for the poor, drives in an economy car and lives in a guest house instead of a Vatican palace. He has denounced the “idolatry of money” and warned against “insidious worldliness” within the church.
Laura Mullins, one of several Catholics who asked the archbishop to sell, praised him for making a quick decision and ending the controversy. The mansion was made possible by a multimillion-dollar gift to the archdiocese.
“He is the person we follow locally,” she said. “He sets the mood. He sets the example for all of us to follow. If he is choosing to use a gift so personally, what does that tell the people sitting in the pews?”
Archbishop Gregory thanked parishioners for raising the issue, and he acknowledged earlier this week the importance of Francis’ example.
“He’s called us to live more simply,” the archbishop said in an interview Wednesday, before announcing the decision to sell the residence.