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Flag-burning priest removed from Avondale parish by Cardinal Cupich

A gay-friendly flag, shown here during a 1991 service at Resurrection Catholic Church, was burned last week by the Rev. Paul Kalchik (upper right).

A gay-friendly flag, shown here during a 1991 service at Resurrection Catholic Church, was burned last week by the Rev. Paul Kalchik (upper right).

The priest who ignited controversy last week by burning an LGBTQ-friendly flag on church grounds against the orders of Cardinal Blase Cupich has been removed from his Avondale parish.

Cupich sent two of his top deputies to Resurrection Catholic Church on Friday to notify the Rev. Paul Kalchik that he was being removed as pastor, according to two sources close to the priest.

In a letter to parishioners and staff released Saturday evening by the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cupich wrote that he has “become increasingly concerned about a number of issues at Resurrection Parish.

“It has become clear to me that Fr. Kalchik must take time away from the parish to receive pastoral support so his needs can be assessed,” Cupich wrote.

Kalchik could not immediately be reached for comment.

Cardinal Blase Cupich.

Cardinal Blase Cupich. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times files

According to the sources, Kalchik and his elderly parents have received death threats since he defied Cupich on Sept. 14 by burning the banner, which featured a cross superimposed over a rainbow. There also have been threats of vandalism to the church, the sources said.

Kalchik told the Sun-Times during an interview in his office on Tuesday that at least one person had forced their way into the church at 3043 N. Francisco Ave. last weekend, leaving a door open but not causing any damage.

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The 56-year-old priest first announced in a Sept. 2 church bulletin that he planned to burn the flag, after he found it in storage where it apparently sat for more than a decade.

Cupich, who has shared Pope Francis’ more welcoming attitude toward gays in the church, told Kalchik not to burn the flag, but the priest said he did it anyway “in a quiet way” during a closed ceremony with seven parishioners, featuring a prayer of exorcism over the torched banner.

The flag-burning drew the ire of LGBTQ-equality activists, including Ald. Deb Mell (33rd), who led a small demonstration across the street from the church on Wednesday, calling on Pope Francis and Cupich “to send this hateful bigot packing.”

Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) speaks at a demonstration across the street from Resurrection Catholic Church on Wednesday, days after the Rev. Paul Kalchik burned a rainbow-cross flag on church grounds. | Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

Kalchik — who has said he was sexually abused by a neighbor as a child, and again by a priest when he began working for the church at 19 — previously said the sex-abuse crisis plaguing the church is “definitely a gay thing.”

“What have we done wrong other than destroy a piece of propaganda that was used to put out a message other than what the church is about?” Kalchik said Tuesday.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Anne Maselli noted that “this decision has been in motion for some time and is not directly due to the flag-burning.”

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Cupich wrote that he removed Kalchik “out of concern for Fr. Kalchik’s welfare and that of the people of Resurrection Parish.

“I have a responsibility to be supportive of our priests when they have difficulties, but I also have a duty to ensure that those who serve our faithful are fully able to minister to them in the way the Church expects,” Cupich wrote.

The Rev. James Kaczorowski, pastor of Queen of Angels Parish, was appointed administrator of Resurrection.

Read the letter Cardinal Cupich sent to Resurrection parishioners and staff on Saturday: