Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa looks to the future

  • In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI delivers his message during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, at the Vatican, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 - the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

Bishop Robert Vasa said Monday he hopes the next person to lead the world's Catholics will follow the same path as Pope Benedict XVI, whose interpretation of church doctrine along strongly conservative lines earned the pontiff both praise and criticism.

Vasa, who leads the 165,000-member Santa Rosa Diocese, said Benedict often spoke of a "hermeneutic of continuity," or a desire for there to not be a major disruption stemming from a change in leadership.

"That certainly fits my hopes and expectations extremely well," Vasa said.

Asked about Benedict's legacy, Vasa referenced the 85-year-old pontiff's scholarly writings and his "great gentleness."

Benedict's papacy also was marked by clerical abuse scandals, the leaking of internal Vatican documents and disputes with other religious leaders and institutions.

Vasa said he did not have "enough information to make any knowledgeable comments" about the abuse scandals.

Vasa said he was "very surprised" by Benedict's announcement to resign later this month, becoming the first pontiff in six centuries to do so.

Vasa predicted a muted reaction among the North Coast's Catholics. "I don't think there is any great grief or sadness. It's not like he is dying," Vasa said.

Worldwide, some Catholics have expressed shock that a pontiff is permitted under church law to resign what is billed as a lifetime post.

John Paul II, Benedict's beloved predecessor, continued to serve even as he coped with Parkinson's disease, in what some Catholics viewed as an uplifting testament to the religious tenet of suffering.

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