Edmund Szoka dies

Edmund Szoka, a former American cardinal who served as governor and financial administrator of the Vatican and was once an assistant of St. John Paul II, has died. He died of natural causes on Wednesday night at Providence Park Hospital in Novi, Michigan, the Archdiocese of Detroit said in a statement.

“We mourn the loss of a dedicated shepherd,” said Archbishop Allen Vigneron. “For 60 years, Cardinal Szoka gave himself totally to his priestly service of Christ and his church. He has gone home to the Heavenly Father with our prayers.”

Szoka received his first assignment as a priest in 1954 as an associate pastor of a parish in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In the early 1990s, he was the Vatican’s man for finance. And by the end of the 90’s, he was running the Vatican City. Szoka honed his administrative skills as the first bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord and as archbishop of Detroit.

Szoka’s leadership of the Detroit archdiocese was highlighted by Pope John Paul II’s 1987 visit to Michigan. He also endured criticism for closing small parishes in Detroit. John Paul II made him a cardinal back in 1988. Szoka grew close to John Paul II, spending Christmas and Easter dinners with him, prayed for the pontiff at his deathbed and led a rosary the night he died.

Szoka said his nine years as Detroit archbishop and in the Marquette diocese had helped him to become financially responsible. That helped him to manage the finances of the Vatican.

“It helped me learn a lot of fundamental and basic things,” he told The Detroit News.

As governor of the Vatican, he held executive and legislative power in the state. He managed budgets and oversaw the famous collection of Vatican buildings and artworks.

“At the time I was nominated, I worried about taking on an administrative post at my age,” Szoka said to “Inside the Vatican” magazine back in 1998. “I was 70 … but after a few days in it, I felt fine — challenges inspire new energies.”

Pope Benedict XVI accepted Szoka’s resignation in 2006.

After his retirement from active ministry, Szoka lived in the Detroit area.

The Detroit archdiocese said that funeral arrangements will be made public as they come.