DETROIT — Cardinal Edmund Szoka, who had served as archbishop of Detroit and president of the Vatican City State, died Wednesday of natural causes at the age of 86 at the local Providence Park Hospital.
“We mourn the loss of a dedicated shepherd. For 60 years, Cardinal Szoka gave himself totally to his priestly service of Christ and his Church,” said Archbishop Allen Vigneron, current archbishop of Detroit. “He has gone home to the Heavenly Father with our prayers. May the Lord give him the reward of his labors.”
Born on Sept.14, 1927, Edmund Casimir Szoka grew up in Grand Rapids as the child of Polish immigrants. He attended St. Joseph Seminary and was ordained a priest on June 5, 1954, in Marquette, Mich. He served his first years as an assistant priest at St. Francis in Manistique, Mich.
Cardinal Szoka attended the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Urban University at Rome from 1957-1959. After returning to the States, he served again in the Diocese of Marquette until 1971.
On June 11, 1971, he became the first bishop of the newly created Diocese of Gaylord in Michigan. Ten years later, in May 1981, he was named archbishop of Detroit, where he closed and merged many parishes within the diocese.
Cardinal Szoka served on the administrative council of the provincial seminary at St. John in Plymouth, as well as St. Cyril and Methodius Seminary near Orchard Lake. During this time, he was also elected president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Pope John Paul II appointed Archbishop Szoka as cardinal in 1988, after which he was selected to oversee the economic affairs at Vatican City State.
He was also appointed president of the Governatorate of Vatican City State and of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State by Pope John Paul II, where he served until 2006.
Just after he turned 79, Cardinal Szoka resigned and officially retired from active ministry on Sept.15, 2006, with Pope Benedict XVI’s approval. Following his retirement, he lived in Northville, Mich., until his death.
This year, he celebrated the 60th anniversary of his priesthood.
Cardinal Szoka’s funeral will take place at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit, where Mass will be celebrated on Tuesday morning at 11am. He will be buried at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Southfield.