By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta, who has been criticized for lavish spending of church money, on Saturday said he has decided to sell the $2.2 million mansion he has been using as his official residence.
Money from the sale of the Tudor-style home in an exclusive neighborhood will be used for "the needs of the Catholic community," Archbishop Wilton Gregory said in a statement.
Gregory has been heavily criticized by many inside and outside the church for spending money to build the mansion, and he wrote in a newspaper article earlier this week that he took his "eye off the ball" after the archdiocese received a $15 million donation from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, a nephew "Gone With The Wind" author, Margaret Mitchell.
Pope Francis has been urging Roman Catholic officials to live simpler lives and has renounced the papal apartments in the Vatican palace for modest quarters in a Church guest house.
On Saturday, the 66-year-old Gregory said that he will leave the new home in early May and possibly move into a smaller property owned by the archdiocese.
"I want to thank those parishioners whose prayers, counsel and concern brought this issue to light and ensured that their Archbishop was properly attuned to the important symbolism of simple actions and the challenges faced by many of the faithful in the Archdiocese of Atlanta", Gregory said in his statement.
Gregory's personal living quarters in the 6,300 square-foot Atlanta mansion amounts to about 700 square feet, Patricia Chivers, an archdiocese spokeswoman told Reuters.
"The rest is for entertaining and for events such as gathering of the nuns," said Chivers. "There are constant events."
Controversy over the mansion has turned out to be a distraction for the church, she said.
The Vatican removed a German bishop - dubbed the "Bishop of Bling" - last month from his job because he spent 31 million euros ($43 million) on a residence where fittings included a bath that cost 15,000 euros and 2.9-million-euro private chapel.
(Reporting by David Beasley; editing by Gunna Dickson)