Pfleger wants to stay at St. Sabina

During his first Sunday church services since announcing that he’s been asked to leave, one of Chicago’s best known Roman Catholic priests said he wants to remain as pastor of his southwest side parish, but said what happens next “is in God’s hands.”

CHICAGO (AP) — During his first Sunday church services since announcing that he’s been asked to leave, one of Chicago’s best known Roman Catholic priests said he wants to remain as pastor of his southwest side parish, but said what happens next "is in God’s hands."

The Rev. Michael Pfleger told his congregation that his desire is to stay at St. Sabina Church where he’s been pastor for 30 years. His comments came two days after he said he had been asked to leave the church. He also has said he responded by letter to a request made by Chicago Cardinal Francis George and was awaiting his response.

"My desire is to stay here at St. Sabina," Pfleger said Sunday. "That’s where it’s at."

The archdiocese has not said publicly why George asked Pfleger to leave St. Sabina but there have been reports that he’d been requested to lead Leo High School, an all-male Catholic school near his church. Pfleger, who has been a fixture in Chicago’s activist circles for decades, told his congregation he doesn’t have the background or expertise to head a school but did not specifically confirm the reports.

Archdiocese of Chicago spokeswoman Susan Burritt declined to discuss Pfleger on Sunday. She said archdiocese officials stand by an email statement last week, which said the cardinal does not publicly discuss meetings with clergy. The statement said, without giving details, that if Pfleger should "join the Leo community, he would be supporting strong leadership who work to serve young men in the inner city."

Pfleger has gained national attention for his protests on everything from gun violence to drug paraphernalia to Jerry Springer’s television show, and he’s often appeared alongside the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other major civil rights leaders.

Pfleger, who is white and runs a largely black parish, also has made racial equality a large part of his mission. He often wears African-style robes during services and a mural of a black Jesus is behind the altar. Both his adopted sons are black.

He has had a strained relationship with the Chicago Archdiocese, which opposed his decision to adopt children — something Pfleger has said makes him a better priest. A foster son, Jarvis Franklin, was killed in gang cross fire in 1998.

In 2008, Pfleger was suspended for nearly two weeks after mocking then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during her presidential run. Pfleger, who was preaching from the pulpit of President Barack Obama’s former Chicago church, pretended he was Clinton crying over "a black man stealing my show." He later apologized.

On Sunday, the St. Sabina congregation gave Pfleger a standing ovation when he appeared toward the end of the early service after another priest preached the sermon.

"We all love our pastor," said parish council chairman Isadore Glover Jr. "We would love to see our pastor remain at St. Sabina, however his eminence Cardinal Francis George is the head of the Catholic church…. The pastor has sent his response to the cardinal so until that is resolved we ask everyone … the press is going to be out there, be very cautious about what you say."

Pfleger preached during the second service.

"What happens at St. Sabina is in God’s hands," he said during a wide-ranging sermon, in which he also criticized lawmakers in Utah for passing a bill to designate an official state gun and questioned the bombing of Libya.

"I’m not supporting (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi," Pfleger said. "I’m just saying why are we bombing Libya?"

Associated Press Writer Sophia Tareen contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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