Father Pfleger back at the pulpit

June 22, 2008 5:34:46 PM PDT
Fr. Michael Pfleger returned to the pulpit Sunday and delivered his first sermon after being forced to take a leave of absence.Francis Cardinal George asked Pfleger to temporarily step down as pastor of St. Sabina's parish earlier in June after the reverend mocked Sen. Hillary Clinton during a sermon.

That incident was not the first time Pfleger had gotten into trouble with the archdiocese because, within the Catholic Church, his ways are unconventional. So, if anyone expected his first day back at the pulpit to be apologetic, they do not know Father Pfleger.

He was as fiery as ever, and while Pfleger has vowed to stay away from commenting on partisan politics again in the future, Sunday morning he made it very clear that he is far from done speaking out on the issues that matter to him.

An enthusiastic round of applause greeted the reverend as he returned to the pulpit of St. Sabina. Thousands packed the church during the day's only mass meant to gather the entire congregation as a show of support to the recently suspended priest.

Pfleger kicked off Sunday's service by deviating from the usual format to give a speech intended for the news media.

"My prayer is that, when people look back over all of my life, they will see an effort, no matter how flawed the vessel, to redeem the soul of America," he said.

Still, there was little repentance in Pfleger's words, as he offered up a passionate defense of himself and his actions. And though in recent days Pfleger said he would learn to say things differently, Sunday he made it clear that he will continue to fight for what he believes in.

"I have chosen to be an activist, as was Dr. King," Pfleger said. "I will not let my faults or my imperfections cause me to run and hide, nor will I allow them to cause me to 'play it safe' or become silent."

While the words from the priest might not be exactly what the archdiocese was hoping to hear Sunday, Pfleger's congregation backed him up.

"I feel like I've been reborn. I am the happiest person in the world because he's back," parishioner Ora Williams said.

"This man has done a remarkable number of things in the community, including for myself. We stand by him 100 percent," said Brian Lonie, also a parishioner.

Following the service, Pfleger did his usual meet-and-greet with parishoners, after which he said simply:

"It's wonderful to be back with my people, back home."

A much more reflective Pfleger also told ABC7 Chicago after the service that the past weeks have been a difficult time. He said he has learned from the experience, and he expects to come out of it a stronger man.


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