DETROIT -

The leader of 1.3 million Roman Catholics in southeastern Michigan says he was surprised by the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI plans to resign.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron said in a statement Monday that surprise was followed by "sadness, a sense of grief at losing his fatherly care for all us." The leader of the Archdiocese of Detroit invited Catholics to pray for the pope and "guide him through what lies ahead."

Vigneron said "we look to the future with confidence, that the Lord who has given us this great pope and loving father, will give us a new shepherd of equal merit."

The 85-year-old pope announced that he lacks the strength to fulfill his duties and on Feb. 28 will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.

Full statement from Vigneron:

Like most of my fellow-Catholics I woke this morning to the very surprising news that Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI is resigning his service as the successor of St. Peter. Quickly after the surprise followed sadness, a sense of grief at losing his fatherly care for all us, bishops, clergy, and faithful. We have come to love him very much and will miss him.

Most of us know in our own personal lives what it means to see a parent grow old and decline in ability. That is the sense we bring to this announcement. Our spiritual father has determined, by the best light given to him in prayer, that for the good of us all he must lay down his office.

It was with the support of our daily prayers that Pope Benedict passed his years in the Chair of Peter and has come to this point. I invite all Catholics to pray all the more ardently for the Holy Father Pope Benedict, that God sustain him in these last weeks of his papacy and guide him through what lies ahead. And we look to the future with confidence, that the Lord who has given us this great pope and loving father, will give us a new shepherd of equal merit.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit
11 February 2013