'He will be fully exonerated': St. Sabina announces 'full support' of Fr. Pfleger after child sex abuse allegation

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Saint Sabina Church issued a statement Thursday announced their "full support" Father Michael Pfleger after a child sex abuse allegation surfaced against the pastor.

Kimberly Lymore, associate minister of Saint Sabina, said in a statement."The Faith Community of Saint Sabina is in full support of Rev. Michael L. Pfleger. Pastor Pfleger is a fighter who is typically very vocal. However, he is sensitive to the gravity of this investigation process.

"He has agreed to fully cooperate and as the matter is being reviewed, he is not allowed to speak at this time.

"We boldly stand behind our senior pastor. We do not believe the accusation. Pastor Pfleger's 45 years of ministry speaks for itself. We hope that the investigation will be swift and impartial and we know that he will fully be exonerated.

"We continue to maintain the ministry and community outreach that is the foundation of the Faith Community of Saint Sabina.

"We are a people of faith and we stand with and pray for all victims of injustice."

Saint Sabina plans to hold a series of events over the next week in support of him.

Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich sent a letter to the St. Sabina parish Tuesday informing them Father Pfleger will be stepping away from his ministry after being accused of sexually abusing a child.

In the letter, Cupich said the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review received an allegation of sexual abuse of a child that happened more than 40 years ago.

Wednesday morning, Pfleger said in a Facebook post, "I can't possibly respond to the hundreds of Texts, emails, and calls that I have received from all across the nation since yesterday. I am devastated, hurt and yes angry, but I am first, a person of Faith, I Trust God. Please keep me in prayer and the Faith Community of St. Sabina. I have been asked by the Diocese not to speak out at this time. I am Blessed with good leadership and amazing members, whom I love.. Pray also for the person, my life is more than a 40 year old accusation, and on that and my Faith I will stand...The Lord is my Shepherd..... I love you...."

In the letter, Cupich said the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review received an allegation of sexual abuse of a child that happened more than 40 years ago.

CLICK HERE to read the letter from Cardinal Cupich

Cupich said Pfleger agreed to step aside from his ministry and will live away from the parish during the investigation. Father Thulani Magwaza will temporarily serve as administrator of St. Sabina parish, and will attend to the church and the school.

Supporters of Fr. Pfleger gathered outside St. Sabina Wednesday. They also noted the church's history with sex abuse victims. While they support the long-time priest, they also respect that the victim in this case should be heard.

"To the possible one victim, their story deserves to be told," said community activist Ja'Mal Green. "Everybody has a story. Everybody has a truth. We want to hear it. We want to hear it. I think that this investigation needs to happen and this investigation needs to be swift, but think about the harm that's going to be done in this community now and even when he comes back so we want to make sure that the public knows the type of man that Fr. Pfleger is."

Pfleger, 71, became a priest in the Chicago Archdiocese in 1975 and pastor of St. Sabina in 1981. For decades he's been one of the city's most outspoken and politically active faith leaders. Last Thursday he led an anti-violence march.

The allegation was also reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and Cook County State's Attorney, as is policy, Cupich's letter said.
"It is crucial that you know nothing is more important than the welfare of the children entrusted to our care," the letter concluded in part.

Archdiocese of Chicago officials said they became aware of the allegations Monday afternoon. They are not aware of any lawsuit associated with the allegations. They declined to give further details beyond the letter.
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