Smoke not txt messages to signal papal election

The Vatican is using a mixture of old-fashioned, traditional and ultra modern technologies as it prepares the Sistine Chapel for Tuesday’s conclave.

A mixture of smoke signals, and a new stove, blacked out windows, and high-tech electronic jamming devices, are all being used.

While the Vatican has not given details of electronic jamming and surveillance equipment it has released pictures from inside the Chapel showing the installation of a new stove which sends out the coloured smoke.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi confirmed one stove is used to burn the cardinals’ ballots after they are cast and the other to send up the smoke signal; black smoke indicating the need for another vote, or white smoke informing onlookers cardinals have elected a new pope and the person has accepted the position.

Lombardi, laughed off concerns about working out whether the smoke was black or white, saying that some “suspense” was all part of the beauty of the process.

“We’re not going to send out txt messages or SMS messages, you’ll have to come and see,” another Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, said.

If the smoke is released after dark, a spotlight will be trained on the chimney so that it can still be seen, Lombardi said Saturday.

Lombardi also confirmed that in order not to cause too much excitement, the stove will be tested privately before the conclave to make sure it can produce the right coloured smoke.

Although no clear favourites have emerged to take over the leadership of the 1.2-billion-member Church, the conclave is expected to be completed within just a few days.

There’s “no reason to believe it will take long” to have a new pope Lombardi said.

Recent papal elections have not been long; both Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II were elected after two days.



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