There are accusations that the Vatican is still steeped in the 15th century, but the Roman Catholic Church is apparently trying to catch up with the technological times. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had a Twitter account under the handle @Pontifex which had more than 1 million followers, until he closed the account on Feb 28.
As the focus shifts to the Tuesday, March 12, start of the conclave, people who want to follow the latest news, aside from checking their Facebook or Twitter accounts where updates are frequently posted, could as well consider the following apps.
Pope Alarm (http://popealarm.com/) - This is a new Web site that promises to notify followers of the conclave news once white smoke emanates from the Sistine Chapel and Vatican announces the identity of the new pope. The portal offers instant notification through email and text message. However, the site clarified that it could not guarantee text messages because of the volume of signups and it is only for U.S. mobile phone numbers. One alternative is to follow the site on Twitter @popealarm.
Fantasy Conclave - (http://fantasyconclave.com/) - This one makes the gamer feel they are part of the conclave and vote not only on who will be the next pope but also the papal name he will choose. While joining the game is free, registration is limited to U.S. and Canada residents only. The Web site clarified that it believes the Holy Spirit will guide the 115 cardinals when they write a name of their ballots. "Our speculation on the outcome is not a lack of trust in the Church or the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but merely a way to encourage education and interest in the process," the portal explained. Only one entry per person is allowed and the more participants, the bigger the prize pool, now at $300.
The 155 cardinal electors definitely went into prayers and celebrated Mass as well at different Rome parishes. One indicator of how papabili the cardinals are is the number of Mass-goers who attended their celebration of the Eucharist.
The Star noted high attendance in the Mass celebrated by Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, U.S. Cardinal Sean O'Malley and U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Another cardinal with a rock star status, Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, kept a low profile and apparently hid from the press but updated his Facebook page with regular discussions on the homily and epistles of the day.
For those who don't think it is wrong to bet on the papal conclave results, the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power runs 10 categories on which they could place wagers (.http://www.paddypower.com/bet/current-affairs/pope-betting). These are who will be the next pope, the papal name, length of the conclave, papal coronation, number of foreign visits in first year, country of next pope, age of next pope, number of ballots held, first foreign visits and next pope to resign.
The changing results as the conclave approaches indicate the lack of a clear frontrunner. For instance, in the papal name, Pius which was the top choice last week is now down to second place with a 5-1 chance, while grabbing first place were Peter and Leo tied with 2-1 chances.
However, for the category on who will be the next pope, Italian Archbishop Angelo Scola kept the lead now with a 2-1 chance, followed by Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson with a 4-1 chance and Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone with a 5-1 chance.
The higher ranking of the Italian cardinals indicate betters are still Euro-centric with it comes to their choice for the pontiff, although the strong performance of third world cardinals in the top 10 such as Cardinal Scherer, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, and Cardinal Tagle is very noticeable.
For people not into betting, but believe more in the power of prayers, one alternative site is Adopt a Cardinal (https://adoptacardinal.org/). Those who will click the Adopt button will be assigned a cardinal's name randomly, although the person who joins the site could still pray for other cardinals he still wants to intercede for. The site has attracted close to half a million hits, indicating how closely both the bettors and the prayerful people are following the developments in Vatican.
The conclave results are also being monitored by doomsday prophets who link the papal resignation with the near asteroid hit on Earth and meteor explosion in Russia to another end-of-the-world scenario just after the failed Mayan Calendar apocalypse prediction at the end of 2012.
Even the prominence of Cardinal Turkson is seen as a portent of a black pope, which again some groups are linking to a doomsday scenario.