In the cardinal’s announcement that Pfleger would be reinstated, Cupich noted that the priest will return to public ministry for the Feast of Corpus Christi. This is “when we celebrate that we are one in the Body of Christ, sharing each other's joys and sorrows,” he said.
“It is in this spirit that I ask you to welcome back Father Pfleger, thereby helping him take up again the ministry that has distinguished St. Sabina in the archdiocese and beyond,” said the cardinal.
“This past year has been a time of great trial for us all, and our church, our city and society are in need of your witness to Jesus' love. Please know you will have my support and prayers as you continue to be a light in the community,” he said.
Pfleger and members of St. Sabina had voiced their frustrations with the length of the archdiocese’s investigation into the abuse claims.
On Feb. 23, the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services reportedly sent Pfleger a letter calling the child abuse and neglect accusations against him “unfounded.”
In response, the Archdiocese of Chicago said the state’s investigation focused on the “risk of harm” to children, and was not directly focused on the veracity of the allegations against the priest. The archdiocese said at the time that it was difficult to predict how long its investigation would take.
In late February, Pfleger’s parish said it would pause its monthly assessments to the archdiocese, in order to expedite the investigation.
The parish statement claimed that the assessments amounted to around $100,000 per month. The parish encouraged supporters of the priest to write to the archdiocesan Independent Review Board and ask for the investigation to be expedited.
Pfleger has served as the pastor of St. Sabina since 1981. He is now listed on the parish website as the “senior pastor,” a position that does not exist in canon law. Pfleger, who is white, is known as an outspoken activist pastor who ministers to the predominantly African-American community.
He has participated in marches against gun violence, has adopted three different boys – one of whom was killed by a gang shooting crossfire in 1998 – and is active in social services for the homeless and the unemployed in his community.
At Monday’s press conference, Pfleger said he would again focus on gun violence.
(Story continues below)
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“We’re going to get more aggressive against the violence. I’m going to become more aggressive against guns,” he said. “And we’re going to continue to fight every injustice we see.”
Gun violence in Chicago is up 36% from the same period in 2020, with homicides up 19%, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday. At least 1,244 people have been shot in 2021, with 244 homicides.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.