Afternoon Edition: Jan. 6, 2021

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Father Michael Pfleger, the longtime pastor at St. Sabina Church, has been removed from the Auburn Gresham parish following revelations of a decades-old sexual abuse allegation against a minor.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

This afternoon will be cloudy with a high near 33 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 30 degrees. Tomorrow won’t be much different: cloudy skies and a high near 34 degrees are in the forecast.

Developing:The U.S. Capitol is locked down with lawmakers inside after violent clashes broke out between supporters of President Donald Trump and police. Here’s the latest.

Top story

Pfleger responds to sexual abuse allegation: ‘I am devastated, hurt and yes, angry’

Father Michael Pfleger, the longtime pastor at St. Sabina Church who has been removed from his parish following revelations of a decades-old sexual abuse allegation against a minor, released a brief statement today thanking people for their support and saying he was “devastated” by the allegations.

“I can’t possibly respond to the hundreds of texts, emails, and calls that I have received from all across the nation since yesterday,” Rev. Pfleger, 71, posted on Facebook this morning.

“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 … ”

Also today, activists gathered for a news conference near the church in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, at which they praised Pfleger’s decades of work on the South Side.

“Every plague that has plagued this community, Father Michael Pfleger has been on the front lines,” said Eric Russell, executive director of the Tree of Life Justice League. “When the ravage of AIDS hit this community, it was Father Michael Pfleger who stood with compassion about black people who were sick.”

Russell praised Pfleger’s ongoing work against gun violence. “Our blue-eyed soul brother — he is a Moses of this time,” Russell said.

Leonard Richardson, 84, a deacon at St. Sabina and a member of the church since 1965, said hearing the allegations was “like a kick in my stomach. It’s very, very painful. I’m still processing it.”

Richardson said he’s texted Pfleger but has not heard back. He said he doesn’t think the allegations have any “merit.” Asked if he’d ever heard allegations of a similar nature connected to Pfleger, he said: “No, no, no, no.”

Cardinal Blase Cupich had announced “the difficult news” in a letter to the St. Sabina community Tuesday, saying he has “asked Father Pfleger to step aside from ministry following receipt by the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor more than 40 years ago.”

Cupich said Pfleger agreed to his request and will live away from the parish during the archdiocese’s investigation. The allegation has also been reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, Cupich said.

Read the full story from Stefano Esposito here.

More news you need

  1. Illinois’ coronavirus death toll surpassed 17,000 today as public health officials announced the latest 139 fatalities attributed to COVID-19. It took only nine days for the state to hit the latest cruel mile-marker in the 10-month pandemic; Illinois eclipsed 16,000 deaths Dec. 28.
  2. During his first COVID-19 update of the new year today, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state will soon advance to “Phase 1B” of its vaccine distribution plan, meaning an additional 3.2 million people will be eligible to receive the vaccine. Since the first shots were given Dec. 19, about 207,000 people have received the vaccine in Illinois.
  3. A community activist released a dramatic video the city had fought to keep private that shows a Chicago police SUV striking and critically injuring a woman in South Shore in 2019. Martina Standley’s leg was pinned under the Chicago Police Department vehicle for at least 9 minutes.
  4. Disgraced former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett landed in prison for steering $22.5 million in no-bid deals to her friends — but her wrongdoing was much worse, a new report concluded. CPS’ Inspector General says she orchestrated schemes that resulted in another $10.1 million in public school contracts for her friends’ companies.
  5. A former computer technician at Chicago Public Schools was paid nearly $122,000 over two years, all while primarily living in California and doing virtually no work, according to a new report from the district’s watchdog. Her school’s principal was aware of the situation but did nothing about it.
  6. The Chicago Teachers Union slammed Chicago Public Schools officials today over their treatment of teachers who were forced to weigh a return to working in-person this week for the first time during the pandemic. “We are here this morning to underscore for the public how absolutely callously CPS has treated educators who have requested accommodations or leave,” CTU Deputy General Counsel Thad Goodchild said.
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A bright one

Roeper’s 21 for 2021: The most anticipated movies of the new year

Last year around this time we were looking forward to 2020 buzz-worthy films like “No Time to Die,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Candyman” and “Dune.”

One year and one global pandemic later, we’re still awaiting those titles, along with dozens of other films that were scheduled for 2020 and then postponed. Even now, the movies from at least the first few months of 2021 will be primarily home video releases; it’s likely we’ll be deep into the summer movie season before any film premieres on thousands of screens.

Still, Richard Roeper has put together a list of movies he’s most excited to see this year. He’s left out the ones on last year’s list that we haven’t gotten to watch yet, to avoid repetition.

They include “The White Tiger,” adapted from the bestselling and prize-winning novel of the same name about an ambitious villager who becomes the driver for a wealthy couple (Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas) that has just returned to India from America.

And “Malcolm & Marie,” which stars John David Washington and Zendaya. They play a couple who come home from a movie premiere and get into a detailed discussion about their past relationships.

Both will be out in the next month.

Read about Roeper’s 19 other picks, and watch the trailers, here.

From the press box

While Bulls coach Billy Donovan searches for the right lineups and rotations, he’s been leaning on veterans Zach LaVine, Thad Young, Garrett Temple and Otto Porter Jr. to close out tight games

As for Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton, Steve Greenberg asks: Does he have “it” or not? It’s been hard to evaluate Colliton’s coaching when the last two-plus years have been “more of an organizational blur than anything else,” Greenberg writes.

Your daily question ☕

What movie do you most look forward to seeing this year?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: What are you doing to maintain friendships during the pandemic? Here’s what some of you said…

“Bringing them booze! (I work in the alcohol industry, this is one of the perks, and I’m happy to share.)” — Holli Anzalone

“A group of friends and I get together on Zoom every Friday night, have a few beers and share music videos from YouTube on Watch2Gether — anything from classic MTV to comedy sketches. It’s one of the only things keeping me sane.” — John Eliasik

“I have been using social media quite a bit. I am in a high-risk category, due to my age, and the internet has helped me stay focused and connected to the things I miss so much.” — Jo Ann Fields

“Flooding people with texts and photos of my new, COVID dog.” — Kelly Colleen

“WhatsApp, FIFA pros and Zoom.” — Gerry Obi Jaramillo

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