Cardinal George spoke publicly about the suspension for the first time Friday as he left for the Vatican to witness the beatification of Pope John Paul II. He said the ball is in Pfleger's court.
"If you read the letter, it's quite the opposite. So he's still pastor at St. Sabina," Cardinal George said at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.
Father Pfleger is the longtime priest at the South Side church, home to the Chicago Archdiocese's largest and most active black congregation. Rev. Pfleger was suspended on Wednesday following a public battle over he should leave St. Sabina, where he has served for 30 years, and move to Leo High School as asked by Cardinal George. Pfleger publicly rejected the possible move, but, according to the suspension letter, which was released to the media by the Chicago Archdiocese, privately wanted.
"I've only spoken with Father Pfleger once and asked him to think over not his very effective ministry, but rather whether he wants to continue it as a Catholic priest with the same faith, discipline that all priests have. And so at some point we're going to talk, I'm sure. Probably talk to a lot of others, too. I'm looking forward to that," Cardinal George said.
Father Andrew Smith moved into the rectory at St. Sabina Church Friday morning on orders from the archdiocese.
"If he's going to notify another priest that he's going to move into St. Sabina Church, how come he can't notify the administrator?" said Vince Clark.
"There's really nothing personal. It's just that assistance does not mean assignment," Kimberly Lymore said. "He was not assigned here. It was said in a letter if we need assistance, we have Father Andrew Smith. But we really don't need assistance."
Father Andrew Smith told ABC 7, "I respect Father Pfleger and the work he's done, and I respect the people of St. Sabina. But I have orders from the Cardinal and I respect his orders. I pray that in the end Father Mike stays at St. Sabina. In the meantime, I go with love for the church and love for the people. Most of all what everyone must remember is that we are one church. What matters is the message."
Rev. Pfleger did not comment Friday, but on Tuesday he said he wanted to remain in the Catholic Church.