Are you waiting with bated breath until one cardinal has emerged triumphant over all the rest to serve as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics? Have you been compulsively checking to see if white smoke has billowed from the Sistine Chapel yet? Day 1 of papal voting yielded a big cloud of black smoke, so the suspense continues. (Fingers crossed it doesn’t last for nearly three years, like those indecisive guys in the 13th century.) But no need to fret—a few online helpers can let you get your hands dirty in the notoriously secretive process of pope-picking while ensuring you’re alerted immediately when “Habemus Papam!” (“We Have a Pope!”) rings from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
First things first, fire up Spotify and plug into “Songs for the Conclave,” a special papal-themed playlist created by Timothy O’Malley, director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy. “The playlist is intended to give the listener a disposition of wonder, of contemplation, of prayer to the God who first loved us,” O’Malley says. Be sure to listen to them all before picking the perfect quivering orchestral Latin song to play at the moment a decision is made. (Feel free to turn this on at your next party to bring a little unexpected holiness to your friends.)
If you don’t have time to watch a livefeed from outside the Vatican all day—c’mon, what else are you doing?—the aptly named “Is There a Pope” site will save you the trouble of Googling or asking a neighboring coworker about the conclave’s progress. It provides the answer you seek in two or three letters: yes or no. The Guardian’s ”Is There White Smoke?” will do the trick as well, complete with some smoky animation. And if typing in these URLs expends too much effort, Pope Alarm will shoot you a quick text, email, or both (better do that one) when the conclave makes its decision. For the Twitter-fanatics, @PapalSmokeStack is “informing the world of the Holy Spirit's choice as the new Bishop of Rome.”
If you’re still itching to get involved, perhaps you should consider adopting a cardinal. Adopt a Cardinal will randomly assign you a candidate for whom you will be responsible to pray and/or fast for in the hopes he ends up draped in papal finery. (We got Brazilian Cardinal João Braz de Aviz and an email saying, “Congratulations! You have adopted this cardinal.”)
Next, place your bets (for your newly adopted cardinal, we hope). The most entertaining bit of speculation (well, other than which cardinals will actually snag the gig) is what the newest pope will chose as his holy name. Could it be Evaristus II or Telesphorus II? We can only hope the newest Holy See picks a name with a bit more panache than his recent counterparts. Right now, on Pope Name Predictor, John Paul III is predictably leading the bunch. (Bonus: If you vote, you could win an iPad Mini, but you have to click a box agreeing to pray for the next pope. Do not take this lightly.)
If real betting is more your style, The Fantasy Conclave League is offering a prize pool of cold, hard cash for your predictions (and it’s free to enter). If you pick the right guy, you win. If there’s a tie, it is broken by your guesses for which name the successor chooses and when they are elected. If there’s still a tie, whoever guessed what day of the conclave the new pope was chosen wins the pot, currently at $300. The site wants to ensure you know it’s not undermining divine will—just adding a splash of fun: “Our speculation on the outcome is not a lack of trust in the Church or the guidance of the Holy Spirt [sic], but merely a way to encourage education and interest in the process.”
Legitimate betting sites are taking off, as well. OddsChecker has gathered all the options for you to place bets on a winner, papal name, age, and nationality, along with 11 other random categories. Remember, betting on the papacy means taking part of a storied, centuries-old tradition. But sorry, Americans, placing these bets is illegal in the U.S.
Got all that? You’re ready to participate in the digital age of pope-picking.