Cardinal: Pfleger shifting to co-pastor of St. Sabina

February 7, 2012 8:19:36 PM PST
Francis Cardinal George appears to be making changes that could result in Pastor Michael Pfleger's disassociation with St. Sabina Parish on Chicago's South Side.

In a letter Tuesday, the cardinal announced that Father Pfleger and another priest will be co-pastors of St. Sabina Parish beginning July 1. The priest appointed to serve with Pfleger is Rev. Thulani D. Magwaza, currently the associate pastor at St. Sabina.

Cardinal George also announced that Pfleger has been named the temporary administrator of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, effective immediately, and that a new pastor for St. Margaret of Scotland will be named on July 1. According to the cardinal, Rev. Daniel J. Mallette will remain at St. Margaret of Scotland as pastor emeritus.

In addition, the cardinal said Pfleger has agreed to take on a new responsibility in serving as the Archdiocesan representative for newly developing anti-violence initiatives that will include a particular focus on issues surrounding gun violence.

"The cardinal made it very clear I will remain here at St. Sabina," Father Pfleger told about 70 bible study participants at the parish Tuesday evening. Pfleger claimed co-pastoring is a long term plan, not a pathway out of St. Sabina for him. "I can just take him at his word ... he said, you love that community and you're a voice in that community."

Tuesday's announcement comes several months after the cardinal suspended Pfleger after he said he would leave the Catholic Church if he were removed from St. Sabina, where he has been for nearly 30 years. The two eventually agreed to come up with transition plan together.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle voiced their support for Pfleger's expanding duties, which come at a time when the city and county are joining forces to fight violence.

"I applaud the archdiocese for picking Father Pfleger because his voice as it relates to violence, gun violence and protecting kids is something that both the president and I share," said Emanuel.

"I'm grateful for his past good work and I will look forward to working with him on our anti-violence initiative, if that's the role that the archdiocese has asked him to play," said Preckwinkle.

The news was also well received at St. Margaret of Scotland, where long-time pastor emeritus Father Daniel Mallette welcomed Pfleger's administrative help. Mallette was severely beaten in a robbery in December and says Pfleger was right by his side.

"I looked up and coming out of agony, there was Mike Pfleger and when people gathered for prayer, there was Mike Pfleger," said Mallette.