Hoping to enhance the conclave experience, some new apps and websites are using technology to bring a centuries-old, top-secret tradition of selecting the next pontiff -- one that still relies on smoke signals -- to Catholics and pope watchers around the world.
Logos Bible Software designed Conclave, a free app, and had a working prototype within 48 hours after Pope Benedict XVI announced he intended to resign.
"At first we thought we didn't have time for it, and then we decided to go for it," said Andrew Jones, director of Catholic products for Logos Bible Software, about the process of developing the free app. "Never before has technology been so accessible for such a specific task. Generating a new piece of software this quickly, or customizing it for such a brief event, was previously unheard of."
Logos Bible Software specializes in religious software, and Jones said the company just wanted to be part of this historic event. Verbum, another free app by Logos, is designed to assist Catholics as they study the Bible. It's the company's most popular product.
Logos' Conclave app has different sections combining new technology and social media with old information. In addition to a live video feed, a news feed from Catholic and Christian news sites and a Twitter feed that follows #Pope and #Conclave, an in-depth resources section provides information about every conclave since 1061.
Additionally, there are bios for all 115 cardinals participating in the conclave -- ranked by who is getting the most online "buzz" on NewAdvent.com. At the conclusion of Tuesday's Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, had the top ranking.
Logos has no plans to continue the app after a new pope is selected, with Jones saying it will just fade away.
Another online service, PopeAlarm.com, said, "When the smoke goes up, you'll know what's going down." (Conclave results are announced via smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney -- black fumes mean an inconclusive vote, while white indicates there's a new pope.) Designed by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, PopeAlarm.com is supposed to send a text or email message when a new pope is selected.
However, because of high demand (60,000 registrations in four days), PopeAlarm.com is working out kinks in its text-messaging capabilities. A message posted on the website says, "Due to the exceptional number of text registrations, we are unable to guarantee text messages to additional signups at this time. We are still collecting numbers and will notify you of our text message status as soon as we know. There are no issues with e-mail notifications."
For those looking for a more interactive experience or a way to earn prizes, FantasyConclave.com might be the place for you.
The website says, "Pope Benedict XVI's resignation presents the (church) with a unique situation to teach the world about the beauty of the papacy and the process of election. To do our part, when you join the Fantasy Conclave League, in addition to a shot at the awesome prize pool, you'll also receive daily 'Pope Facts' in your e-mail up until the election of our new pope."
FantasyConclave.com asks you to choose which cardinal will be selected pope, on which day of the conclave, and what name the pope will take. The website says the prize pool stands at more than $300, though most of the prizes listed are not cash payouts but DVDs, study guides and autographed books.
The Fantasy Conclave League is being sponsored by eCatholic, Flocknote and CatholicStudentMinistry.com and is also free.
The last pope was selected in 2005, and there has been much change in communication since then. But whether monitoring the conclave online, with an app or via TV, pope watchers will still have to wait for that old-school smoke signal.