SANTA ROSA, CA., January 26, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Unabashed pro-life Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon, has been appointed as Coadjutor Bishop of Santa Rosa, California by Pope Benedict XVI. Fittingly, the appointment was announced in Washington, D.C. on Monday, the day of the National March for Life.
Bishop Vasa (pronounced Vasha) will be installed as coadjutor bishop to Bishop Daniel F. Walsh, and will automatically replace Walsh upon his retirement, which is expected to happen within the year.
Whereas the diocese of Baker, where he has been since January 2000, has a Catholic population of about 36,000, his new diocese currently has about 170,000 faithful.
The bishop is well known not only for his strong pro-life stance, but also for demanding that Catholics uphold moral standards in all areas of public life.
In 2004, Vasa began requiring all lay volunteers in his diocese to make an affirmation of fidelity to the Church. He has been known to deny communion to pro-abortion politicians and uphold the Church’s right to excommunicate.
In early 2010, Vasa made news when he withdrew the Church’s official sponsorship of Oregon’s St. Charles Medical Center because the hospital, Oregon’s largest medical center, refused to adhere to some Catholic teachings. He has also refused to support what he called the “fatally flawed” national health care reform law.
In an interview with LifeSiteNews.com in 2008, the bishop said that under no circumstances should Catholics vote for pro-abortion politicians. “Abortion needs to be in our country a defining issue, and we ought not be afraid to make it a defining issue, because when we do that we will have an end of abortion in this country,” he said.
Bishop Walsh, who had requested the assistance of a coadjutor, expressed his pleasure with the appointment of Vasa. “I am happy to learn of Bishop Vasa’s assignment to the Diocese of Santa Rosa,” he stated, “and look forward to introducing him to our parishioners and working in partnership to lay the foundation for our diocesan future.”
“It was an absolute shock,” Vasa told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. His appointment came “out of the blue,” he said.
In a letter to the people of his own diocese, Vasa said his time in Baker has been “a grace and blessing” though he admitted to experiencing “a number of challenges in the Diocese.”
“I am also painfully aware that some have found me too difficult and I can assure you that I have often carried them with me to the chapel in prayer and at Mass,” he said. “I am sure that I have not been all that you hoped I could be for you and I ask that you pray that I do better in the future. Please do not judge me too harshly.”
The bishop will continue to face similar challenges in the Diocese of Santa Rosa, which has been plagued by priestly abuse scandals and tremendous debt.
Vasa will take up residence in the diocese on March 4, and a Mass of Reception and Welcome will be celebrated at St. Eugene’s Cathedral on March 6th at 10:30 a.m.