DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Metro area Catholics said their final farewell to Cardinal Edmund Szoka Tuesday in Detroit.
Szoka was remembered for his service within the Catholic Church as priests, bishops, cardinals and deacons came from around the state and the country to pay their respects during a funeral mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
“I offer heart-felt condolences to you and to clergy – religious and faithful to the archdiocese,” the letter stated.
An American cardinal who served as governor and financial administrator of the Vatican, it is said that his keen intellect helped him rise through the ranks of the Catholic church.
The church was filled with red and white flowers, an homage to Szoka’s Polish heritage, as honor guards from the Knights of Columbus marched in the procession.
Edmund Casimir Szoka was born Sept. 14, 1927, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Polish immigrants. He received his first assignment as a priest in 1954, as associate pastor of a parish in Michigan’s rural Upper Peninsula.
By the early 1990s, he was the Vatican’s point man for finance. And by the end of that decade, he was running one of the world’s smallest countries: Vatican City.
In between, Szoka honed his administrative skills as the first bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord and, later, archbishop of Detroit.
Szoka’s leadership of the Detroit archdiocese was highlighted by Pope John Paul II’s 1987 visit to Michigan. Szoka also endured criticism for closing more than 30 small parishes in Detroit in the face of declining attendance and the shift of the Catholic population to the suburbs.
Szoka died of natural causes last week. He was 86.
Since his retirement from active ministry in 2006, Szoka had been living in Northville.
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