Responding to critics, and citing “the phenomenon we have come to know as Pope Francis,” the Archbishop of Atlanta on Monday apologized for a plan to build a new $2.2 million home for himself.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Archbishop Wilton Gregory moved out of his old residence early this year and into a new house in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. The house was built with money left to the Cathedral of Christ the King and the archdiocese by Joseph Mitchell, the nephew of “Gone With The Wind” author Margaret Mitchell. Joseph Mitchell, who died in 2011, left the church $15 million, plus his house in Buckhead. That house was demolished to make way for a new 6,195-square-foot home.
The Journal-Constitution published published a story about the building plans last month. In a column published Monday in The Georgia Bulletin, the archdiocese’s newspaper, Gregory wrote that in the past week he had received numerous “heartfelt, genuine and candidly rebuking letters, emails and telephone messages.”
Gregory wrote that the plans that ended with him in a new house began with the need for a new rectory for the Cathedral of Christ the King. He agreed to leave his old house, close to the Cathedral, so that it could be used for the rectory. He would relocate to the property left by Mitchell.
“The plan seemed very simple,” Gregory wrote. “We will build here what we had there—separate living quarters and common spaces, a large kitchen for catering, and lots of room for receptions and other gatherings. What we didn’t stop to consider, and that oversight rests with me and me alone, was that the world and the Church have changed.”
Even before “the phenomenon we have come to know as Pope Francis was elected to the Chair of Peter,” Gregory wrote, “we Bishops of the Church were reminded by our own failings and frailty that we are called to live more simply, more humbly, and more like Jesus Christ who challenges us to be in the world and not of the world.”
“To all of you, I apologize sincerely and from my heart,” the archbishop wrote.
Gregory wrote that he will ask the Archdiocesan Council of Priests, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, and the Finance Council of the Archdiocese for advice on how to proceed. If they recommend selling the Buckhead property, Gregory said he would “look to purchase or rent something appropriate elsewhere.” (Read the whole thing here.)
Gregory isn’t the first U.S. Catholic figure to recently face criticism for the cost of his home. Newark, N.J. Archbishop John Myers recently came under fire for a plan to build a $500,000 addition to his retirement home. Pope Francis has urged priests to avoid luxurious lifestyles.