DETROIT (WWJ) – Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka, who served as Archbishop of Detroit from 1981 until 1990 has died.
Szoka was pronounced dead Thursday night of natural causes at Providence Park Hospital in Novi. He was 86.
“We mourn the loss of a dedicated shepherd,” Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who had served as a priest under Cardinal Szoka in the 1980s, said in a statement. “For sixty 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. May the Lord give him the reward of his labors.”
Monsignor Mike LeFevre, director at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit, visited Szoka in the hospital on Monday.
“He was at peace with it,” LeFevre told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas. “And, you know, I joked with him a bit, telling him he’d come through from illness before, and he just shook his head no. He knew that he was going ‘home.'”
Szoka presided over of dozens of controversial church closings in Detroit in 1989.
“He didn’t wanna hurt people, and yet he recognized how painful church closings are,” LeFevre said.
“I wouldn’t define his legacy by a closing of parishes’ I think I would reach back further. One of the thing he did during his time was he transformed out marriage tribunal, which was a unique ministry for people who had gone through divorce.”
Edmund Casimir Szoka was born Sept. 14, 1927, in Grand Rapids to Polish immigrants Casimir and Mary Szoka. His father had immigrated from what is now Belarus; his mother from Poland.
Cardinal Szoka was celebrating his 60th anniversary as a priest this year, having been ordained by Bishop Noa on June 5, 1954, to serve the Diocese of Marquette.
He had served as chancellor in the Diocese of Marquette until being named the first bishop of the newly created Diocese of Gaylord in June of 1971. After establishing the Diocese of Gaylord, Pope John Paul II named him Archbishop of Detroit. He was installed to the post in May 1981.
The pope then made him a cardinal in June of 1988. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed to oversee economic affairs at the Vatican City State, in April of 1990, and was succeeded in Detroit by Archbishop (Cardinal) Adam J. Maida.
Cardinal Szoka oversaw the Vatican City State under both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. He was made President of the Governatorate of Vatican City State in 1997, and president of the Vatican City State in 2001.
A day after his 79th birthday in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI accepted Cardinal Szoka’s resignation.
Funeral arrangements will be made public as they become available.