Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Vatican appoints new bishop for Diocese of Santa Rosa

Bishop Robert Francis Vasa, 59, has been appointed by the Vatican to oversee California's Diocese of Santa Rosa. He will take up residence in the diocese on Friday, March 4, 2011. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Baker, Oregon.





SANTA ROSA, Calif. – On Monday the Vatican appointed a new bishop to head up the Diocese of Santa Rosa.


Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Robert Francis Vasa, 59, of Baker, Oregon, as coadjutor bishop – or designated successor of the current bishop – for the Santa Rosa diocese, which also includes Lake County.


The appointment was publicized in Washington, DC on Monday by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.


Vasa will succeed Bishop Daniel F. Walsh, 73, who has served as Santa Rosa's bishop since May 2000, according to the Diocese of Santa Rosa Web site.


A coadjutor bishop is the designated successor of the current bishop of the diocese, church officials said. He assists the current bishop, who remains at the head of the diocese, in the various aspects of pastoral and spiritual leadership of the people.


Under church law, all bishops must submit their letter of resignation when they reach age 75, or earlier if circumstances indicate it, the Diocese of Santa Rosa reported. Once that resignation is accepted by the Holy Father, Bishop Vasa will automatically become bishop without any formal ceremony of installation.


Bishop Walsh, who had requested the assistance of a coadjutor, expressed his pleasure with the appointment.


“I am happy to learn of Bishop Vasa’s assignment to the Diocese of Santa Rosa, and look forward to introducing him to our parishioners and working in partnership to lay the foundation for our diocesan future,” Walsh said.


Walsh's tenure has been marked by several cases of alleged sexual abuse by priest. Critics have accused Walsh and the diocese of protecting abusive priests, a charge he has denied in statements to the region's media.


California Catholic Daily has said Vasa is “among most orthodox prelates in US,” while the Catholic Sentinel reported that Vasa has worked to uphold Catholic teachings, criticized pro-choice politicians and removed the Catholic identity of St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Ore., where sterilizations were performed.


Vasa will become the sixth bishop of the 11,711-square-mile Diocese of Santa Rosa, which includes Sonoma, Lake, Humboldt, Mendocino and Napa counties.


He will oversee 101 priests, 35 deacons and 87 members of various religious orders, the Vatican reported.


Church officials said the diocese has a population of 909,361 people, of whom 169,567, or 18.6 percent, are Catholic, the


A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, Vasa studied for the priesthood at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver and Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas, and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Lincoln on May 22, 1976.


Bishop Vasa holds a master’s of divinity from Holy Trinity Seminary and a Canon Law Licentiate from the Gregorian University in Rome.


He served the Diocese of Lincoln in various positions, including chancellor, judicial vicar and vicar general.


In 1995 Pope John Paul II named him a “Prelate of Honor” with the title of “Monsignor.”


Vasa was appointed in November 1999 as bishop of Baker, where the diocese covers more than 66,000 square miles and has a reported 40,000 Catholics.


At the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Vasa is a member of the Catholic Home Missions Subcommittee and also serves on the Task Force on Health Care.


Bishop Vasa will take up residence in the diocese on March 4.


A Mass of reception and welcome for Bishop Vasa will be celebrated at St. Eugene’s Cathedral, Santa Rosa, at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, March 6.


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