News Column

Papal Enclave: Where There's Smoke, There's Twitter

March 12, 2013

Daniel Patrick Sheehan, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

Sure, the news that the Roman Catholic Church has a new leader will be announced by a puff of white smoke and the pealing of great bells -- same way it's been done for years.

But this time around, technology will spread the word faster than ever.

Remember, when Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, Twitter didn't exist yet and Facebook was in its infancy, with membership still limited to students.

Today, though, those social media sites and countless others tell us what we want to know the second it happens. Maybe faster.

There are at least two Twitter accounts -- Papal Smokestack and Conclave Chimney -- claiming to be the authoritative voice of the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel and promising to alert the world as soon as the black smoke of failed ballots turns to the white smoke of a new papal era.

A website called IsThereWhiteSmoke.com shows an illustration of the chimney, puffing virtual black smoke Tuesday afternoon after the first ballot.

Then there is PopeAlarm.com, a project of the FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, which allows you to sign up for a text alert and email alert as soon as the big news breaks. Its motto: "When the smoke goes up, you'll know what's going down."

FOCUS marketing and communications director Jeremy Rivera said some 65,000 people had signed up for the alerts by Tuesday afternoon, with 3,000 new requests coming per hour.

The response was so overwhelming, the site was briefly unable to assure text alerts would go out to new registrants, though that problem had been resolved by mid-afternoon.

Rivera said the emergence of social media as a force in this election was in keeping with the church's call for a new evangelization -- a call that gave rise to FOCUS itself, a Colorado-based an outreach program that has conducted college campus missionary work for 14 years.

"Part of the new evangelization is to use today's media to share the message of the church," Rivera said. "We're trying to be responsive and do that. The church is ever ancient and also ever new."

The news make break like lightning, but there will be plenty of time between the first sight of white smoke and the actual announcement. That will allow people in Rome to flock to St. Peter's Square and the rest of the world to reach a television, radio, smartphone or computer.

At the appointed time, a cardinal serving in a position called Protodeacon -- Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran of France -- will emerge to announce the decision in Latin, the language of the church: "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; Habemus Papam." ("I announce to you a great joy; We have a Pope.")

He announces the new pope's first name and last name -- again in Latin, and with a dramatic pause in between -- then reveals the new papal name.

Here, so you can get a small jump on your friends, are the first names in Latin of some of the leading -- or, at least, most discussed -- papal candidates:

-- Petrum -- Peter Turkson, Ghana.

-- Angelum: Angelo Scola, Italy.

-- Marcum: Marc Ouellet, Canada.

-- Ioannem Francus: Gianfranco Ravasi, Italy.

-- Christophorum: Christoph Schoenborn, Austria.

-- Timotheum: Timothy Dolan, United States.

-- Ioannem: Sean O'Malley, United States.

Mind you, some cardinals share a first name. So before shouting that the new pope is Angelo Scola, remember that it could be Angelo Bagnasco.


For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel



Source: (c)2013 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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