Edmund Szoka: Priest, and the Vatican City’s governor who kept finances in the black

He was confidant to Pope John Paul II, who was his financial administrator

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The Independent Online

Edmund Szoka was an American cardinal who served as governor and financial administrator of the Vatican and was a confidant of St John Paul II. “We mourn the loss of a dedicated shepherd,” said the Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron, who served under Szoka in the 1980s. “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.”

As governor of Vatican City, Szoka held executive and legislative power in the city-state. He managed annual budgets and oversaw the collection of artworks. 

Szoka 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 handling the Vatican’s finances and by the end of the decade he was running the Vatican City. In between he honed his administrative skills as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord and, later, Archbishop of Detroit.

He was born in 1927 in Grand Rapids to Polish immigrants. Szoka grew close to the Polish-born Pope John Paul II, spending Christmas and Easter dinners with him; he prayed for the pontiff at his deathbed and led a rosary in St Peter’s Square the night he died.

In 1990 Szoka became President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, which audits Vatican accounts, approves budgets and handles major transactions such as buying and selling property. With the strict financial accountability he enforced, and regular contributions from dioceses around the world, the Vatican operated in the black under his leadership.

Edmund Casimir Szoka, priest: born Grand Rapids, Michigan 14 September 1927; died Novi, Michigan 20 August 2014.