I am currently reading the The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church by John Thavis and so far it is a great read.
Considering the first chapter that dealt with the death of Blessed John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI it has been perfect interregnum reading. Pretty timely since it came out on February 21st of this year. What I found quite interesting was the discussion of some of the behind the scenes look at the Conclave and the election. For example the two stoves used and the chemical packs that were used to try to make white smoke actually look like white smoke. Also interesting was that besides the white smoke the other indication was the ringing of the bell “Campanone” at St. Peter’s Basilica”. There is a rather interesting story behind the bellringer of this bell when Pope Benedict XVI was elected.
Reading all this and the difficulties they have had with indicating that a pope was selected it is easy to see this system as maddening in an age of instant communication. Really couldn’t they email or tweet out as soon as “Habemus Papam” is confirmed? As I was thinking about this I realized I was falling into the trap of instant gratification of wanting everything right here, right now. Really is it going to kill us if this is delayed somewhat and people are having to determine just exactly what shade the smoke from the chimney at the Sistine Chapel is? I have find myself being rather impatient with the Cardinal electors for not coming up with a date for the Conclave yet and I am sure I will be even more impatient when the Conclave does meet and the voting commences. Still it is all going to happen eventually and getting caught up in the 24/7 news cycle is really rather silly. Still no doubt I will be caught up in this silliness.
Still I kind of like the old fashioned way the election of a new pope is announced. There is a connectedness regarding the Church to both her past and present. The both/and of moving forward and not leaving what went before behind.
Now also thinking about the mixture of technology in the last Conclave using chemical packs I thought it would be rather funny for them to explore the mixture of old and new further. Perhaps a chimney with a Rube Goldberg type machine of funny complexity. White smoke that goes through a gas chromatograph device that triggers a steel ball that rolls down a track hitting a plastic hand that then depresses “send” an a twitter app of some mobile device. It would have to be out of range of the cell-phone blocking that will be deployed at the Conclave. Give me white smoke, bells, and a text message.