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Statue of St. Peter with destroyed hand at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of San Nicolás (left); the Sanctuary (right)The Lepanto Institute, Wikimedia Commons

SAN NICOLÁS DE LOS ARROYOS, Argentina (LifeSiteNews) — Multiple journalism outlets have confirmed that lightning demolished the keys and blessing hand of a statue of St. Peter in Argentina on December 17, Pope Francis’ birthday and the day before the publication of the Vatican document Fiducia Supplicans endorsing homosexual “blessings.”

The Lepanto Institute reported on Sunday that it sent an unnamed individual to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of San Nicolás, north of Buenos Aires, where the statue flanks the shrine, to take pictures and confirm the lightning strike originally reported on December 26 by Italian blogger Andrea Cionci.

“The Dec. 17 lightning strike is CONFIRMED,” the Lepanto Institute shared on X, noting that lightning struck the statue despite the fact that multiple lightning rods are located about 30 to 40 feet above it, as pictures show.

READ: Franciscan University professor calls for Pope Francis to resign following homosexual ‘blessings’ text

CatholicVote also sent a journalist to the scene, who likewise confirmed that lightning struck the statue on December 17, “obliterating” the keys in the St. Peter statue’s right hand. The news outlet noted that the multiple surrounding lightning rods make the incident “highly improbable.” 

Cionci and others have emphasized that both the date on which the strike occurred and where it took place are remarkable. The statue is located in the Buenos Aires Province about 250 kilometers northwest of the city of Buenos Aires, where Francis was born, raised, and was archbishop.

What is striking, in fact, is that the event occurred on Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s birthday, the day before the publication of the Fiducia supplicans declaration which opens up blessings for homosexual couples,” wrote Cionci.

The Italian blogger also pointed out that St. Peter is traditionally depicted holding two keys: a golden key representing the pope’s authority to “bind and loose” in heaven and a silver key representing his authority to “bind and loose” on earth. This authority was given by Christ Himself, as recorded in Matthew 16:19: “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

“Strange that the statue only held one key, it seems,” Cionci remarked.

Traditionalist Catholic commentator Anthony Stine clarified on Monday that according to independent researchers, while lightning indeed blasted the statue’s keys and right hand on December 17, the statue’s halo has been missing since September 2018, contrary to the above mentioned reports.

Pictures from before September 2018 show the statue with a halo. But pictures from late September 2018 show him without the halo,” Stine reported. A photo shared by Catholic blogger Ronald Conte shows the statue without the halo but with the key intact. Conte originally thought that photos of the statue after the strike were “fake.”

Stine suggested that the timing of the halo’s destruction is meaningful because on September 18, 2018, Francis promulgated the apostolic constitution Episcopalis Communio, which “announces Francis’ intention to tear down the Catholic Church as it had existed, and to replace it with his synodal church.”

Stine further noted that some observers described Episcopalis Communio as the implementation of Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, in which he expressed his intention “to profoundly reshape all the ecclesial structures, so that they become more missionary.” 

The commentator also weighed in on the significance of the destruction on December 17, pointing out that “not only is the key missing, but the hand we’re used to associating with the teaching authority in sacred art is missing. It’s just gone. No other real damage to the statue either.”

“It’s almost as if symbolically the papacy itself is fine. The office is fine,” he continued. “Peter still has authority as an office, but this particular teacher has no authority any more. That’s kind of the gut feeling I had looking at this statue in context.”

According to Cionci, the priests of the sanctuary have acknowledged the lightning strike on the statue but disagree with his take on the event, stating, “The Sanctuary does not agree with the interpretation that has been given with respect for the damage produced in the image of the apostle Saint Peter.”

The Buenos Aires Herald reported on December 17 that a “severe thunderstorm” swept the Buenos Aires province early that morning. In his video commentary, Stine showed a weather radar map confirming that the storm affected the area of San Nicolás de los Arroyos, where the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary is located.