NEW YORK — A Catholic organization has set up a website, www.popealarm.com, that lets people register to receive a text or email notification when a pope has been selected by cardinals meeting in Vatican City. None were needed Tuesday: after a day of pageantry and some arresting television pictures, black smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney indicated no pope had been selected.
The text service set up by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students was an indication of how much the media world had changed since the last papal conclave, in 2005. The site had proven so popular with more than 40,000 respondents that it said Tuesday it could no longer guarantee new registrants would get a text message. People could still sign up for emails.
“When the smoke goes up, you’ll know what’s going down” is the website’s motto.
Another new website, www.adoptacardinal.org, assigns interested people one of the voting cardinals at random to pray for him as he deliberates on a new pope. Nearly 500,000 people had signed up by Tuesday morning.
Television cameras on Tuesday caught for the first time the first steps in the papal conclave, with the participating cardinals, one-by-one, taking an oath of silence about their deliberations. As each man approached, it was hard to lose the idea that one of them would soon be the leader of the Roman Catholic church.
“For the few cardinals I have spoken with, all have said that it’s the most important act they do as cardinal,” said Father Joseph Martin, a Jesuit priest and television commentator. “It reminds you that they are also human beings charged with a divine task. Overall, I found it very moving.”
When the oaths were taken, an official pronounced: “Extra omnes,” Latin for “everybody out.”
All but the cardinals streamed out of the Sistine Chapel and the large wooden doors were closed and latched behind them.