Pfleger Says Return To Pulpit Is ‘The Greatest Gift Of All’

CHICAGO (CBS) — Three weeks of silence were broken on Sunday when Father Michael Pfleger returned to the pulpit at Saint Sabina on his birthday, full of energy and with an apology to his congregation for the public ordeal that stemmed from his dispute with Francis Cardinal George.

“God gave me the greatest gift of all: to be back this morning,” Pfleger said. “I am grateful.”

As CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, Pfleger was back at the pulpit two days after the cardinal ended his suspension as pastor of Saint Sabina, following a series of conversations about his future with the Catholic Church.

The sometimes controversial activist pastor indicated weeks ago he might leave the church if the cardinal forced him to leave Saint Sabina and he was suspended as a result.

The cardinal had been considering moving Pfleger from Saint Sabina, where he’s served for more than 30 years, to nearby Leo Catholic High School.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Michele Fiore reports

On Sunday, for the first time, Pfleger explained to parishioners the true intent of his words.

“It’s good to see you, family. I love you,” Pfleger said to a cheering congregation as he took the pulpit for the first time since his three-week suspension was lifted.

Later, Pfleger had a personal message for those supporting him through his latest conflict with the archdiocese.

“I am sorry to have to put you through this and you going to work and having to defend me,” Pfleger said.

The cardinal suspended Pfleger three weeks ago and asked him to pray about his commitment to the priesthood after Pfleger indicated in a radio interview he might leave the church if reassigned to nearby Leo Catholic High School. For the crowd today there were many apologies.

“I am sorry if in any way my words left a possibility of interpretation that I was giving a threat (that) if I can’t stay here, I’m leaving the priesthood. That’s not what I said,” Pfleger said. “I apologize if my choice of words let anybody feel that or think that. I love being a Catholic priest.”

Parishioner Delores Wedgeworth was so moved, she snapped several dozen pictures of Pfleger’s return.

“I wanted to capture the moment,” she said. “It feels like Easter, Christmas, everything put together. It’s a great day.”

Equal parts priest and outspoken – and at times controversial – community activist, Pfleger has spent 36 years at St. Sabina, far longer than most Catholic priests are allowed to stay at one parish.

His restoration includes a promise to present the cardinal with a transition plan for his departure by December.

“I want to thank Francis Cardinal George. I thank him for lifting the suspension, I thank him for our conversations,” Pfleger said. “Give Cardinal George a great big thank you because he made it possible for me to be here today.”

The lessons were not lost on the faithful on Sunday.

Michelle Wong-Scott said she didn’t have any ill feelings toward the cardinal for suspending Pfleger.

“I am a Christian, so I practice forgiveness,” she said.

Fellow parishioner Raesella Banks said, “No, I am not mad at the cardinal. No, not at all. I mean, he thought he was doing what he needed to do, but, you know, he was wrong. And he’s human too, anybody can be wrong.”

Members of Saint Sabina parish said that this latest conflict brought them together and made them stronger.

One woman said it was a chance to pray and be there for Father Pfleger in the same way he’s been there for them for more than 30 years.

  • Yadhirah

    We are so glad to see this woderful pastor preaching again the Word of the living God. We are headed to heaven no matter what other people are saying. In this world you will have trouble… but God is with you all the time. May the souls of those who llisten be filled with joy and have everlasting life with God.
    From St. Sabinas church we are all grateful to God for what He has done.
    God bless you all.

  • retiredinZ1

    BIG MISTAKE bringing this clown back!

  • pditty

    retiredinZ1….you so arent being fair over there talking about what is going on over here. you know nothing about him or us and really…if you hold a mirror up to your face you will see the clown.

  • Chicago Guy

    It’s not God that gave the gift…it was the Cardinal.
    get over it.

    No one, and no group is that special that normal rules don’t apply.

  • pditty

    wow, you people are amazing. such hate, now he’s a meth head….the foolishness being written by people hiding behind their computers is truly overwhelming, possibly because Pfleger chose to help empower the citizens on the south side of chicago. .its over, he’s back and i am so pleased. please remember, theres a place for each of you at Sabina…seems like yall need some serious prayer time. and for the chicago guy….not sure if you know, God uses people….get over it.



  • Chicago Guy

    It’s sad that Catholics keep using the Baptist approach to life, not assuming responsibility for the actions of man.
    He’s done a lot of good…no mistake.
    His flock loves him, even though he loves to grandstand like other religious leaders.

  • Kevin

    He should not have been suspended rather kicked out of the church. Everyone is saying they forgive Cardinal George, forgive him for what, he wasn;t wrong rather too nice!

  • jay

    Is everyone in the parish overlooking the fact that though he may have been back TODAY – a real gift from the Cardinal – he has to develop and present a plan for his departure by December? I’m guessing that will just bring a replay of all the nonsense that has just gone on there. No matter how much good a priest has done in a parish/community, 36 years is time to move on!

  • Brian Keller

    Why is it when Pfleger talks to white people he talks regular, but when he talks at St. Sebina he talks like he is from the ghetto ? He is a phony.

  • Devonia T.

    Brian you really are watching the father speak. Did you get saved and filled with teh Holy Ghost? Are you in your way to heaven? We all hope so. Then you would not classify him as phony. Because God gives gifts to man. Gifts of healing, tongues, and raising of the dead. At the twinkling of an eye… the Lord will return and we will wake up from our graves and be gone to be with Him for ever. Meth head? Someone is full of drugs indeed. Get saved and get rid of all drugs.

  • Stephen

    Gives one a new empathy for the way Henry II must have felt about Beckett.

  • mikeh

    Another fine example of how “whining” can get you whatever you want these days in the US. This guy should have been removed, but its the catholic church, who allows pedophiles to maintain cushy Vatican jobs(how about it Bernard Law?) and try to avoid admitting they allow pedophiles to maintain their jobs(aint that right Pope?). Just another fine example of the catholics not adhering to what they profess, and another example of why the US is slowly turning into a whiner nation

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  • Martin

    30 yeras! Long enough. This priest is serving himself. He has no idea what it means to belong to the Catholic Church. Problem is he never will. You don’t say those things to your bishop. If your bishop needs you somewhere else you go and do your job. He should’ve been suspended. He should thank Cardinal George for his patience and tolerance. A priest who refuses to obey his bishop is not a Catholic priest

  • Mike

    One of the most racist people I have ever heard speak. Why do you thing jeremiah wright invited him to his church. He receives special treatment because his congregation is black.

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