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Cardinal, Pfleger discuss him possibly leaving St. Sabina

Cardinal Francis George had dinner with the Rev. Michael Pfleger Friday to discuss the possibility of Pfleger’s departure from St. Sabina, where the popular, sometimes controversial pastor, has served for 30 years, a source told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The source, who asked to remain anonymous, said “several options” for Pfleger’s post-St. Sabina future were discussed. But “no offer was proffered,” the source said.

On Monday, WBBM-Channel 2 cited unnamed sources in reporting that Cardinal George asked Pfleger to take over struggling Leo High School.

Pfleger told the station he could “neither confirm nor deny [the request] at this point.” He did say, however, he was “in discussions with the Archdiocese but you know those are private conversations at this point and I can’t comment at this point about those conversations.” Pfleger has been at St. Sabina, 1210 W. 78th, since 1981 — a tenure longer than Archdiocesan priests are typically permitted to stay in one parish.

Chicago Catholic Schools Supt. Sister Mary Paul McCaughey said in a statement Wednesday any conversations that Pfleger “may or may not” have had with Cardinal George are a private personnel matter. Pfleger did not return several calls seeking comment. A church spokesman said the pastor would release a statement on Thursday.

WBBM-Channel 2 showed a video of Pfleger at last Sunday’s mass, saying, “I love being your pastor and I love being your shepherd, but you’re looking at a man [who] made a choice [to] hold onto God, wherever God takes me.”

Leo High School, 7901 S. Sangamon, is just a few blocks from St. Sabina and has experienced declining enrollment and an uncertain future. But Catholic schools spokesman Ryan Blackburn said Leo High’s enrollment and financial picture is improving — and is expected to remain stable for the next school year — under current president Dan McGrath.

Pfleger, a white Chicago native, has become nationally famous for his success at building the predominantly black Catholic parish.

McGrath said he respects Pfleger and admires his long service to the church and surrounding community.

“We have a good relationship with him and admire what he did in this neighborhood,” McGrath said. “Look down 79th Street and all redevelopment you see is attributable to him. He’s a great neighbor.”

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