DETROIT (AP) — Catholic leaders and faithful packed the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit on Tuesday for the funeral of Edmund Szoka, an American cardinal who served as governor and financial administrator of the Vatican.
Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron officiated at the Mass, which drew about 900 mourners.
Szoka died of natural causes Wednesday at Providence Park Hospital in Novi, Michigan. He was 86.
Szoka was a confidant of St. John Paul II. In addition to leading the Detroit area's Catholics through a difficult period of parish closings, Szoka later served as the governor of Vatican City.
He was aware his reputation was that of an administrative expert, but that wasn't how Szoka wanted to be remembered, Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair told the crowd.
"He wanted to be known for believing in the renewal of our faith," said Blair, a former auxiliary bishop in Detroit. "He was always a man of deep faith."
Speaking outside the cathedral, Monsignor Timothy Hogan described Szoka as "one of the greats."
"He was a very gracious man and very caring and loving toward his priests, doing whatever he could to assist them," Hogan told WXYZ-TV.
Since his retirement from active ministry in 2006, Szoka had been living in the Detroit suburb of Northville.
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.