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Witness to a resignation: Cardinal details Benedict XVI's surprise abdication (VIDEO)

Cardinal Arinze: We all "looked at the other -- in silence, in surprise."

Pope Benedict XVI resigns 16Enlarge
The Vatican announced on February 11, 2013, that Pope Benedict XVI had decided to resign at the end of the month due to his "advanced age." (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Nigeria's Cardinal Francis Arinze, seen as a top contender for the papacy and who was in the room when Benedict XVI announced his resignation to cardinals on Monday, said the news came as a "surprise, like thunder that gives no notice that it's coming," reported Catholic News Service (CNS).

Funny he should put it that way, because just after the Roman Catholic leader's announcement went public, lighting did indeed strike St. Peter's Basilica.

A papal portent? Hard to say, but Arinze, who serves as the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said Monday's news shocked church officials as much as the church's faithful, said CNS

The former head of the Vatican Secret Archives, Cardinal Raffaele Farina, confirmed to CNS that the cardinals in the room "were all surprised, at a loss, frozen, no one had expected it." The pope said he made the decision on health grounds. 

Here's Arinze's story from inside the Vatican:  

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/130212/witness-resignation-cardinal-describes-benedict-xvis-unexpected-