.- While American-born Cardinal, Edmund Szoka, will retire as governor of Vatican City this September, he says he is thankful that he is and always will be a priest.
His retirement will take effect Sept. 15, one day after his 79th birthday and 52 years of priestly life. Cardinal Szoka told the Muskegon Chronicle that he will remain active in Vatican bureaucratic bodies and assist at parishes when needed.
Of his continued ministry he said, "I continue to be a priest and will be until I die.”
The cardinal told the paper that he was grateful to God for having been given the opportunity to serve in a variety of posts within the Church.
"There's not many priests who have all that experience," Szoka said in a telephone interview from his Vatican apartment. "I've been blessed in that, and I'm thankful to the Lord for giving me all these opportunities."
The cardinal was baptized at St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and entered St. Joseph Seminary as a young man. He pursued further studies in Detroit and Rome before being ordained at St. Peter Cathedral in Marquette, in 1954.
He was named the first bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord and then served as archbishop of Detroit, where he tackled the tough task of closing and merging parishes.
The Cardinal later served as the Holy See's budget director and then as a Vatican City administrator, overseeing nearly 1,500 employees. During his time at the Vatican, the cardinal grew in a close friendship with Pope John Paul II, sharing in Christmas and Easter meals with him.
"For me, every visit with him was an inspiration," the cardinal told the Chronicle. "I always left with the idea, 'I'd like to be holy like he is.' "
He prayed for the pontiff at his deathbed and led a rosary in St. Peter's Square the night he died.
The cardinal intends to continue to reside in Vatican City after he retires, and looks forward to having more time to read and travel.