By Derrick Blakley

CHICAGO (CBS) — Archbishop Blase Cupich made his first visit to St. Sabina Church to celebrate Mass on Sunday.

Father Michael Pfleger’s outspoken social activism has sometimes led to friction with church leaders, including the late Cardinal George, but Archbishop Cupich pronounced his support and encouragement for St. Sabina’s community service and its fight against gun violence.

CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports at St. Sabina, it was a virtual lovefest between a controversial pastor and the leader of the archdiocese.

First praise for the archbishop from Pastor Michael Pfleger.

“Your challenge for us is not only to hear the Gospel, but to live the Gospel,” Pfleger said.

In his homily, Blase Cupich praised St. Sabina as a healing force in a hurting community.

“You provide that robe around those who need it, to let them know that a supportive environment is so very important, no matter what their struggles or failures have been in the past,” Cupich said. “I’m here today to give you a word of encouragement but also to let you know how much I admire you, I depend on you.”

The archbishop’s message was warmly welcomed by the largest black Catholic parish in Chicago. Cupich even called St. Sabina something of a model as the archdiocese ponders its future.

“Just look at the spirit we have here,” Cupich said. “Every parish should have the vibrancy of this parish.”

Quite a change for St. Sabina’s leader, who was once suspended by Cardinal George.

The archbishop was asked about Pfleger’s 35-year tenure as St. Sabina’s pastor, which far exceeds archdiocese guidelines.
Cupich said the rules are important but exceptions are made in extraordinary circumstances. Translation: Pfleger needn’t worry about going anywhere. He faces mandatory retirement in four years.