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Bishop Richard J. Malone expressed surprise today about Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement that he will be resigning at the end of the month.

Malone said the pope “seemed more fragile than I thought he would be” when the two met in the Vatican more than a year ago for Malone’s visit on behalf of the Diocese of Portland, Maine.

“This is clearly due to his health,” Malone said of the pope’s surprise announcement that he will be stepping down. “His mind is as sharp as a tack.”

Benedict XVI appointed Malone as Buffalo bishop last May. Malone, who was celebrating a special Mass Monday morning in Mercy Center in South Buffalo, wore a pectoral cross that the pope gave to him during his visit in November 2011.

The bishop said Benedict will go down in history as a brilliant scholar who was never out of touch with how the world was evolving.

“Pope Benedict really had his finger on the pulse of the culture,” said Malone.

At the same time, the bishop added, “I think of Pope Benedict as a man who honored and fostered church tradition.”

Earlier today, Malone said in a statement that when he met with the pope in November 2011 at the Vatican, “he did seem rather frail.”

He went on to “express my gratitude for his faithful ministry as Successor of St. Peter, his life of scholarship and his faithful leadership of the Catholic Church. One hallmark of Pope Benedict XVI is his humility and pastoral concern in putting the good of the Church first in his discernment. I cherish the pectoral cross he gave to me and other bishops who met with him during our Ad Limina visit.”

Malone asked area Catholics to join him in prayer for the pope, “giving thanks to our Heavenly Father for the pope’s lifetime of dedicated, selfless service to the Church.”