YAKIMA, Wash. — The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Yakima is asking church members to offer a prayer for Pope Benedict XVI following news this morning that the faith’s leader will resign Feb. 28 because his health prohibits him from holding the office.

The Most Rev. Joseph Tyson said he feels a special connection to the pope, who named Tyson as the Yakima bishop about two years ago. Tyson was announced as a bishop shortly after the pope was elected in 2005.

“I had the privilege of seeing him this last April during the routine visit of our Pacific Northwest bishops to Rome and – in an even more special way – had the privilege of celebrating Mass with him in Rome this last October at the canonization of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American woman to be canonized a saint in our church. I will always cherish these moments,” Tyson said in a statement released by his office this morning.

Tyson said he was grateful for the pope’s “great embrace” of the teaching ministry.

Tyson asked Catholics to pray for the pope and his successor during services this Sunday.

“In the coming days and weeks many will be predicting papal candidates. But the election of the pope is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit, who guides the church through the prayer and ministry of the 1.2 billion Catholics of all cultures, ages and walks of life,” Tyson added. “Keeping communion with the teachings of Christ, those designated to elect the next pope – the College of Cardinals – will be keeping this reality in their minds and hearts in the coming weeks.”

The Yakima diocese, where about 75,000 Catholics are registered, covers a seven-county section of the state.