Senator Barack Obama’s controversial former spiritual adviser, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, made a surprise appearance at a Catholic church on the South Side of Chicago on Friday night. During the visit, the pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church praised Wright and asked him to deliver a blessing for the church’s lecture series, CBS2 Chicago reports.
Wright, who was Senator Obama’s mentor for twenty years, became the center of controversy after clips of his sermons condemning America were posted on the internet.
Senator Obama, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the presidency, has distanced himself from Wright’s remarks. Wright’s visit to St. Sabina’s was reportedly his first public appearance since the controversy over his remarks began.
According to CBS2 newscaster Diann Burns, the crowd at St. Sabina parish, though surprised by Wright’s appearance, was “quick to show their support.”
The church’s pastor, Father Michael Pfleger, publicly welcomed Wright to the event. “We love you. We praise God for you,” the priest said to Wright. In later interviews with the press, the priest defended Wright from criticism.
Father Pfleger had invited Wright to the church’s African-American Speaker Series, which featured writer and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou.
Father Pfleger explained to CBS2 the reason for Wright’s invitation.
“I wanted him to come tonight as a guest because he loves Dr. Angelou, and I wanted him to see the love of people for him,” he said. “And so when I asked him about coming, he said he’d be honored to come. And it was a blessing for us to have him here.”
According to CBS2, Reverend Wright did not speak about Senator Obama at the event, but gave a blessing to the congregation. After the blessing, Wright went to a nearby office where dozens of people lined up to greet him.
The church’s pastor has praised Senator Barack Obama’s presidential run. The Obama campaign’s website identifies Father Michael Pfleger as the senior pastor at St. Sabina Church.
The priest is quoted as saying, “I’m concerned by issues of poverty and issues of justice and equal access and opportunity especially when dealing with children and education and healthcare. Also, the war in Iraq is non-negotiable: end it! The faith community has to be a prophetic voice to bring us to where we ought to be as a country. Its voice should call every individual to be their best and not assimilate into anything less. Obama is calling back those who have given up and lost hope in the political system both young and old in the belief that we can fix it. He has the intellect for the job and I haven’t heard anyone since Robert F. Kennedy who is causing such an emotional and spiritual awakening to the political possibilities.”
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Father Pfleger has called recent criticism of Wright “shameful.”
"I wanted him to come here so he could see that people really stand with him and support him while he's under all this attack," Father Pfleger said on Saturday, the Sun-Times reports. "America, unfortunately, has been really cheated of knowing the real Dr. Wright."