The Roman Catholic priest assigned to fill in for a popular south-side pastor during his suspension says his stay will be brief.
CHICAGO (AP) — The Roman Catholic priest assigned to fill in for a popular south-side pastor during his suspension says his stay will be brief. The Rev. Andrew Smith reminded parishioners at St. Sabina Church Saturday night that he was one of 14 priests who signed a letter asking Cardinal Francis George to keep the Rev. Michael Pfleger at the church. "It is not my intention, nor has it ever been my intention, to replace Father Mike — because who among us can replace a legend?" Smith said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "Father Pfleger is still the pastor here." George suspended Pfleger on Wednesday after public comments in which Pfleger, who has led the largely African-American congregation at St. Sabina for 30 years, suggested he would leave the church if George reassigned him to a local Catholic high school. Chicago Archdiocese policy is that no pastor will serve more than two consecutive six-year terms at one church. George, who was in Rome Saturday for the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II, did not say how long Pfleger has to resolve the issue. "I asked him to reflect a bit, so some time is necessary, but it’s up to him," George told WLS-TV. "We’ll be in conversation at some point, I hope." Pfleger did not appear at Mass and did not make a public comment. Parishioners planned a "Jericho Walk" after Mass Sunday morning, marching in "prayer and unity" around the church seven times to protest the suspension. Several dozen St. Sabina parishioners similarly picketed at George’s home last week. Many credit Pfleger with rebuilding the church from a few dozen families to more than 2,000 members and for helping transform a crime-riddled neighborhood. But the activist has scuffled with church leaders before. For example, George suspended him in 2008 for disparaging remarks about Hillary Clinton. Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.