Paul Badde: What do you recall thinking on the evening of February 11, 2013, when a lightning bolt hit the dome of St Peter’s Basilica, after Pope Benedict had resigned earlier that day?

Archbishop Georg Gänswein (Benedict XVI’s personal secretary): I remember the storm, but I did not witness the lightning with my own eyes. Indeed, I noticed it the first time in a photo and after that, of course, many more times. The impression was one of a sign from above, a reaction, which you might – or even must – associate with the happenings of that morning. So, it was some kind of reaction. Then, I wondered whether it meant something good or whether it was meant to say “Take care.”

PB: I still remember the tremendous noise. How did the Holy Father react?

AGG: As far as I remember, Benedict only noticed the rumble – only the sound and not the sight of the lightning. I showed him some photos in the news of the lightning. That was perhaps one or two days later; I do not quite recall any more. He asked me, “Is that real or a photo composite?” In fact, it was real; it is obvious that nature had spoken here very clearly …

PB: On the evening of February 28, 2013, the whole world could see your tears when you left the Pope. You were as sad as if it was a funeral. You seemed almost in shock. Since then, you have passionately defended this step. How did you manage to make peace with the decision, which changed your life from one second to the next?

AGG: You are right, leaving the Palazzo here on February 28 was very painful and it hurt me much. We went down out of the Palazzo, crossed Damasushof, took the car to the helipad and had the helicopter take us to Castel Gandolfo. Indeed, I found myself compelled to cry openly. I was not able to keep myself together any more.

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