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Pfleger holds first Mass at Saint Sabina since return

Monday, May 23, 2011

Father Michael Pfleger celebrated his 62nd birthday Sunday and his first Mass since being reinstated as pastor of St. Sabina Church.

Pfleger was suspended in April by Chicago's Francis Cardinal George.

Pfleger's sermon Sunday was titled "What Every Survivor Should Know."

The activist priest has survived the latest disciplinary action from Cardinal George. On Friday, the cardinal reinstated Pfleger.

The St. Sabina pastor returned to the pulpit with his usual high energy as well as several apologies.

After a four-week absence, Pfleger says he is back where he belongs. The St. Sabina pastor thanked Cardinal George for the gift of his congregation.

"I want to thank Francis Cardinal George. I thank him for lifting the suspension; I thank him for our conversations," said Pfleger.

George lifted Pfleger's suspension after both men had several in-depth conversations. Pfleger was suspended for comments he made on National Public Radio where he implied he might leave the Catholic Church if George reassigned him to become president of Leo High School.

"I had to clarify what his relationship to the faith, and to the church, and to his own priesthood really was and he did that very well," said Cardinal George.

Not only did Pfleger apologize to the cardinal, he also expressed remorse several times to his parishioners.

"I am sorry if any way my words left a possibility of interpretation that I was giving a threat: if I can't stay here I'm leaving the priesthood," said Pfleger. "That's not what I said."

Pfleger made it clear that he is not going anywhere outside the church.

"I love being a Catholic priest and I love being in the church," he said. "Like any family we fight, we disagree."

As part of making up with the cardinal, Pfleger has agreed to come up with a transition plan for St. Sabina, but for now, Pfleger will continue his 30-year run at the Englewood Catholic church.

"Thank you for your support. I'm back, and I'm glad to be with you," said Pfleger to cheers from parishioners. They cheered several times during the services.

How long Pfleger will stay at St. Sabina is unknown. The controversial priest says he will deliver a transition plan for St. Sabina by December 1.

The archdiocese says the cardinal always intended to reinstate Pfleger if he apologized and clarified the remarks that he made on the radio.

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