Former Detroit Archbishop Cardinal Edmund Szoka has died

Cardinal Edmund Szoka, who served as Archbishop of Detroit from 1981-1990, died of natural causes Wednesday night in a Novi hospital. He was 86.

"We mourn the loss of a dedicated shepherd," said current Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who had served as a priest under Cardinal Szoka in the 1980s. "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."

Edmund Casimir Szoka was born Sept. 14, 1927, in Grand Rapids to Casimir and Mary Szoka. His father had immigrated from what is now Belarus. His mother was born in Poland.

Szoka was ordained on June 5, 1954 and began his priestly service with the Diocese of Marquette.

Szoka was Bishop of Gaylord, Mich. when Pope John Paul II selected him to replace Cardinal John Dearden as Detroit's Archbishop in 1981. He was made a Cardinal in June 1988.

His tenure as metro Detroit's Catholic leader was highlighted by Pope John Paul II's visit to the city in September 1987.

He also presided over the closure or merger of nearly 50 Detroit parishes in 1989. It was controversial decision, and one that Catholic historians called unprecedented. However, Szoka defended the decision at the time, telling the New York Times the closures was necessary to eliminate a "plantation mentality" of largely white congregations in what had become a mostly African-American city.

Szoka was appointed President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See in 1990, essentially placing him in charge of the Vatican's financial affairs.

He became the Vatican's de facto mayor in 2007 when he was appointed President of the Governorate of Vatican City. Szoka was named President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State in 2001.

Szoka was also an electors at the 2005 Papal Conclave that selected Pope Bendict XVI.

Szoka retired from the Curia in 2006 at the age of 80 and took up residence in Northville.

Funeral services and visitation will take place at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Woodward Ave. in Detroit.

Visitation will take place Sunday and Monday between 2:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. as well as Tuesday morning between 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.

Szoka's funeral mass will be held Tuesday morning, beginning at 11:00 a.m. Burial ill take place at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield.