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Cardinal, Pfleger Begin Discussions About St. Sabina Succession

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Rev. Michael Pfleger

Rev. Michael Pfleger said that Cardinal Francis George has asked him to leave St. Sabina Church to join nearby Leo High School. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Negotiations are under way between Chicago Archbishop Francis Cardinal George and Father Michael Pfleger about the priest’s plan for leaving St. Sabina parish.

The cardinal requested the plan after he suspended Pfleger last spring over comments Pfleger made about not wanting to leave his South Side base.

The pair met Monday evening at the cardinal’s residence across from Lincoln Park, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports.

Cardinal George said last month that talks with Pfleger would begin after the holidays, but before the Cardinal left for vacation and a trip to Rome for what’s expected to be his final state of the archdiocese report to Pope Benedict.

The Pfleger affair may be one of the last potential land mines for George. He’s approaching retirement, after serving nearly 15 years as archbishop of Chicago.

His first challenge: succeeding the legendary and beloved Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. But convincing Pfleger, perhaps the most popular parish priest in the archdiocese, that it’s time to move on after 30 years at St. Sabina has been equally difficult.

The often-vocal priest balked at what he might have mistakenly viewed as an ultimatum.

But Pfleger’s threat to leave the church rather than leave St. Sabina was viewed as breaking his vow of obedience, and the cardinal in essence suspended him for several weeks.

Pfleger’s apologetic return to St. Sabina was accompanied by a promise to present a succession plan by Dec. 2, which he did.

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