Earlier today, the 115 Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church officially entered the conclave to choose a new pope to succeed Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. This evening at 7:42pm, black smoke rose from the chimney installed on the roof of the Sistine Chapel signalling that the Cardinal electors have not elected a new Pope in the first ballot of the Conclave.
While the lack of a new pope after the first ballot was not surprising, the number of guessing games being reported demonstrates a high level of interest in this conclave. Additionally, this conclave seems to indicate that the New Evangelization will take place on the internet.
While papal conclaves are hardly a once-in-a-lifetime event (although John Paul II was pope for over 25 years, the last conclave was not even 8 years ago), this is the first in the age of Twitter and mobile apps.
In addition to the usual news sites covering the event in real-time, there are also a great number of Catholic blogs explaining the conclave process and the history of the papacy. There are also many other blogs covering more minute details, including how each cardinal's first name would be pronounced in Latin, should they be the next Successor of Peter.
Of course, there are other sites dedicated strictly to prayer for the cardinals and the new pope. One site in particular, Adopt-a-Cardinal, already has over 200,000 people registered to pray for a randomly chosen cardinal.
But blogs and websites for traditional news outlets are just the beginning. Many more will find out about the new pope, not from ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, or CNN, but rather from the Conclave App, complete with live video feed of the chimney over the Sistine Chapel. While this is ideal for those within a few time zones of Rome, many in the Americas will have to rely on the Pope Alarm, which will send them a text message and/or email to wake you up or disrupt your workday, should the white smoke rise while you're away from your TV.
This, of course, leads to the two main questions: who will it be and what name will he take? Every news outlet and bookie seems to have the 115 Cardinal electors narrowed down to the top 10 or 20 "favorites", with the top questions being "will there be a Third World pope?" and "does an American stand a chance at being Pope?"
Even if you are the rare sports fan who doesn't go in for bookies and gambling, you may still be interested in "The Sweet Sistine", a March Madness-style bracket system of papabili from the 4 corners of the world to try to determine the next Pope.
For the second question, Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin wrote a book (also available in internet-age formats) that studies the patterns of papal names. And for those who want to get in on a sweepstakes, CatholicVote.org is sponsoring a "Name the Pope" contest, with the winner receiving a new iPad Mini.
Regardless of your religion or degree of internet connectivity, there is no denying that all eyes are on Rome this week, with the new Pope expected to be announced on Thursday or Friday.