Papal conclave: How to get text, email alerts when new pope is chosen

This 2005 file photo shows black smoke rising from a chimney on the Sistine Chapel, indicating that cardinals failed to elect a new pope in their conclave ballot. PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images

What if you don't have access to a TV to see if it's white smoke or black smoke? Maybe it's easier just to wait for a text message that a new pope has been elected.

A Catholic organization has set up a website, popealarm.com, that lets people register to receive a text or email notification when a pope has been selected.

While the process of selecting a new pope is as old as the ages, there are enough changes to the media to make the last papal conclave - in 2005 - seem like ancient history.

The text service was set up by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, or FOCUS, and had proven so popular with more than 40,000 respondents that the popealarm website 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.

FOCUS paid nearly $10,000 to set up the free service, figuring it was good publicity. Now the group's leaders are sifting through co-sponsorship offers from other organizations impressed with the amount of online traffic it has generated and hoping for their own exposure, said Jeremy Rivera, spokesman for the Christian campus ministry.

Another new website, 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.

American television network stars are in place in Vatican City for the start of the conclave Tuesday. All will wait for the traditional signal that a new pope has been selected: white smoke from the burned ballots of cardinals wafting from a Sistine Chapel chimney.

Twitter addicts with a sense of humor can follow @ConclaveChimney or @PapalSmokeStack for humorous updates on smoke coming out of the chimney at the Sistine Chapel.

Traditional media is covering the conclave, as well. Two of the three U.S. evening news programs broadcast from Rome on Monday in anticipation of the conclave: ABC's "World News" with Diane Sawyer and the "CBS Evening News" with Scott Pelley. Brian Williams of NBC's "Nightly News" did not make the trip.

Tune into CBSNew.com's Vatican smoke cam during the voting session at http://cbsn.ws/smokecam.

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