CHICAGO (CBS) — Parishioners of a northwest suburban church have asked Archbishop Blase Cupich to reinstate a priest who was removed for having an inappropriate relationship with a man.

Supporters of Rev. Marco Mercado prayed outside the Archdiocese of Chicago on Tuesday, as they delivered petitions bearing 5,000 signatures, all in support of reinstating Mercado, the rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines.

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Cupich removed Mercado earlier this month, because of an “inappropriate relationship with an adult man.”

Mercado has said he is cooperating with the archdiocese investigation. His supporters said they want Cupich to reconsider the decision to remove Mercado from his post.

“There has been no criminal act committed. Father Mercado has a fundamental right to seek counsel, and to defend himself as a person. One is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” said activist Raul Montes Jr.

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Montes said Mercado is a beloved leader and an immigration activist.

Mercado attended the pope’s address to Congress last month, and has been director of the archdiocese’s Office of Hispanic Ministry since 2010.

“It’s a great loss to the people of the Catholic church, and the people of the Hispanic community,” Montes said.

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The archdiocese said it has received the petitions, and the investigation was continuing.

Rev. Marco A. Mercado

Rev. Marco A. Mercado