The Huffington Post Cavan Sieczkowski First Posted: 02/12/13 EST Updated: 02/12/13 EST
Was it just Mother Nature or a sign from God?
Lightning appeared to strike St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City on Monday just hours after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, according to the BBC. The lightning strike happened around 6 p.m. local time.
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Global news agency Agence France-Presse was the first to publish the startling photo of a lightning bolt coming out of the heavens and appearing to strike the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, one of Catholicism's holiest sites.
AFP photographer Filippo Monteforte caught the amazing photograph on Monday evening during a storm. "It was icy cold and the rain was falling in sheets," he told AFP. "When the storm started, I thought that lightning might strike the rod, so I decided it was worth seeing whether - if it DID strike - I could get the shot at exactly the right moment."
He waited two hours before lightning struck twice and he captured a still image. "The first bolt was huge and lit up the sky, but unfortunately I missed it," he told AFP. "I had better luck the second time, and was able to snap a couple of images of the dome illuminated by the bolt."
Some questioned the authenticity of Monteforte's photograph.
But Fairfax Media photographer Nick Moir told Australia's The Age via The Sydney Morning Herald that the image looks legitimate. "It's probably not that rare for St Peter's to get hit," he told the publication. "The bolt is hitting a lightning rod to the side of the cross, it seems."
On Monday, Benedict announced he will resign from the papal office on Feb. 28 due to health concerns. He is the first pope to do so in nearly 600 years.
Lightning strikes St Peter's dome at the Vatican on February 11, 2013. Pope Benedict XVI announced today he will resign as leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics on February 28 because his age prevented him from carrying out his duties -- an unprecedented move in the modern history of the Catholic Church. (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)