A lightning strikes St Peter's dome at the Vatican on February 11, 2013, hours after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Aside from Pope Benedict XVI announcing his resignation
, Vatican City in Italy was shocked in another way: lightning appeared to strike the white cross on the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.
Religious devotees are calling the lightning strike, which occurred just hours after the Pope announced he would step down by the end of February, a sign from God.
A stunning photograph of the lightning strike has been circulating the Internet. Some have questioned the photo's authenticity, claiming the timing was too good to be true.
Agence France-Presse, a global news service based in France, was the first to publish the photo of the otherworldly moment
. Officials at the news service said it was taken on the day the Pope announced he was stepping down.
Filippo Monteforte, an Italian photographer who captured the frame, was stationed near the Basilica with his camera as the storm moved in.
"I took the picture from St. Peter’s Square while sheltered by the columns," Monteforte said. "It was icy cold and the rain was falling in sheets. 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.”
The agency said that Monteforte waited two hours in the cold, hoping for the right opportunity so he could click the button on his 50mm-equipped camera.
“The first bolt was huge and lit up the sky, but unfortunately I missed it," he said. "I had better luck the second time, and was able to snap a couple of images of the dome illuminated by the bolt.”
Monteforte works for Italian national news and photo agency ANSA. A BBC video showed the storm at the Vatican
The Pope has led the church since 2005
. He celebrated his 85th birthday last April.
His resignation was the first by a Pope in nearly 600 years. A Vatican newspaper said the Pope made the decision a year ago, after international trips left him feeling exhausted.
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