CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) – Expressing his gratitude to God and thanking Cardinal Francis George, clergy from around the country and others for their support, popular Roman Catholic priest Reverend Dr. Michael Pfleger told congregants of the Faith Community of Saint Sabina, God is forever faithful in the face of obstacles.
“You’ve got to understand that no matter what you deal with in life, no matter who leaves you or walks away from you, God will never leave you alone and He’s real,” Father Pfleger told church parishioners during his opening comments, which were greeted with thunderous applause.
Delivering his first sermon on his birthday, May 22, since being reinstated as pastor after a four week suspension imposed by Cardinal George, Father Pfleger told parishioners he wanted to speak to them first before speaking with media outlets.He also apologized if any words he spoke prior to the April 27 suspension were misunderstood by Cardinal George and others.
Father Pfleger was reinstated May 20 after being suspended for what Cardinal George said was misrepresentation of events surrounding the possibility of the priest being removed from St. Sabina and assigned to become the principle of Leo High School, in the same area (See Vol. 30 No. 31 for prior coverage).
In a May 20 written statement, Cardinal George said in the past month he and Father Pfleger discussed healing the hurt caused by the series of events and both sought to “clarify the confusion.”
“I am personally pleased to restore Father Pfleger to his sacramental and pastoral ministry at St. Sabina and in the Archdiocese of Chicago. With him, I ask the Lord to bless him and the people he loves,” wrote Cardinal George.
“I am sorry if in any way my words left a possibility of interpretation that I was giving a threat ‘I can’t say here, I’m leaving the priesthood,’ that’s not what I said,” said Father Pfleger from the pulpit May 22, in reference to media reports to the contrary.
“I love being a Catholic priest and I love being in the church,” said Father Pfleger.
The outspoken priest has headed St. Sabina, a predominately Black congregation on the city’s southwest side, and is well known for his crusade against youth violence and tireless community activism. His suspension angered and frustrated many inside and outside of the St. Sabina community.
Church members protested outside the residence of Cardinal George and took to the airwaves of local radio and television stations to voice their displeasure during the suspension. Father Pfleger said over the past few weeks he and the cardinal had three lengthy meetings and in his own written statement said they both agreed he would submit a transition plan for the church by December 1. The average length of time a priest is assigned to a parish is 12 years. Father Pfleger has been at St. Sabina for some three decades.
Now that he is back among the faith community he loves so much, Father Pfleger said it is no accident that he was called to the prophetic duty of the priesthood. “I came to the priesthood to preach truth. I came to be a conscience. I came to challenge the status quo. I came to be a voice for justice and for the poor,” he said.
Community outraged by suspension of activist priest (FCN, 05-08-2011)