Liturgies may be steeped in ritual mystery and millenary tradition, but the Vatican is certainly no novice at communication, digital or otherwise. Most recently, in fact, the Vatican inaugurated the @pontifex twitter account on December 12, 2012.
The Conclave, however, will not be broadcast in real-time. Indeed, the word itself derives from the Latin “with key” implying a locked door. Violating the oath of secrecy is punished by excommunication.
Tomorrow, when the Master of the Papal Liturgical Celebrations utters the Extra Omnes, all those who are not Cardinals will leave the Sistine Chapel. The doors will be locked and the cardinal electors will be barred from newspapers, television, telephones and all forms of digital and social media.
Technicians have installed mobile signal jamming devices to keep the world out of the Sistine Chapel. John Thavis, a longtime Vatican correspondent and author, has reported that Vatican security forces will even sweep the chapel for hidden microphones and other listening devices.
Thus, the election will be communicated in the traditional manner: via a white smoke signal.
It goes without saying that millions of eyes will be focused on the old copper chimneystack. As of today, 5600 journalists have been accredited for the event and the number of bloggers, tweeters and social media users that will chronicle the event is probably ten times that, at least.
Now, a new web service – popealarm.com – promises to inform you instantly of the Vatican smoke signal via an SMS alert, a service that – one day – will most certainly be provided directly by the Vatican.