Former Detroit archbishop, Vatican insider Cardinal Szoka dies

Word comes this morning from the Detroit archdiocese that Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka, archbishop of Detroit from 1981 to 1990 and overseer of the Vatican City State under Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, died Wednesday. He was 86.

NCR senior analyst Fr. Thomas Reese recently reviewed Szoka's role at the Vatican:

In 1967, the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See was established. According to Pastor Bonus, it is in charge "of supervising and governing the temporal goods of the administrations that are dependent on the Holy See." It is responsible for publishing annual financial statements for the Holy See and Vatican City and for producing budget estimates and "inspecting books and documents, if need be." It had no authority over the Vatican bank. 

Pope John Paul II appointed Cardinal Edmund Szoka of Detroit as its head in 1990. Szoka imposed the first unified chart of accounts for the Vatican and published detailed financial statements. He computerized the books so that the statements came out within a year rather than five years late.

Szoka had to fight hard for every victory. He was hated by many people in the Curia because he was changing the way things had always been done.

John Paul not only brought in Szoka; he also put other non-Italians as heads of every important financial office, including Vatican City, APSA (the Vatican finance office), and the Vatican bank. This did not last. By the end of his papacy, the Italians were again in control of all these entities.

Once Szoka left in 1997, things quickly deteriorated. Subsequent prefects were Italians who were less competent and less aggressive than Szoka. They preferred to get along rather than upset other Vatican officials by pushing reform. Most only wanted the job because it came with a red hat.

Szoka was appointed president of the Governatorate of Vatican City State in 1997 and president of Vatican City State in 2001, the post from which he retired in 2006.

Following his retirement, Szoka had been living in Northville, Mich., according to the Detroit archdiocese. He died Wednesday night at Providence Park Hospital in Novi.

Funeral arrangements will be made public as they become available.

Read more here.

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