Denver — More than 35,000 people have signed up for PopeAlarm.com, a service of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (Focus) that sends out a free text and email alert when the next pope is elected.
“The reaction has been fantastic and overwhelming,” Kevin Cotter, Focus web director, told Catholic News Agency. “It’s been great to be at the forefront of Catholic new media and getting the word out there.”
Demand for the service has been high since its launch on Saturday, March 9. As of Monday morning, 35,000-plus people had registered for the service. The PopeAlarm.com website received 140,000-plus page views.
“It’s really exploded and caught on fire,” Cotter said. “There’s a lot of social-media traction.”
Focus staff will use the service to notify registered users when white smoke appears from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, the traditional signal that the next pope has been elected. It is sponsored by the organization, which is based in the Denver area.
Cotter was inspired to launch the site because he could not find any service to alert him when the white smoke is first seen. He said the 2013 conclave marks the first time a papal election has taken place with this technology.
The web director noted that the success of PopeAlarm.com and an unrelated initiative called Adopt-a-Cardinal shows that Catholics are “very excited” about praying for the next pope, about knowing who he is and about supporting him.
Cotter said that secular media sometimes has a “downtrodden view” of Catholics relative to the papacy that ignores many Catholics.
“We’re very enthusiastic about the Church,” he said. “There are a lot of Catholics out there who have a real optimism.”
“The Church is made for greatness,” he added. “We don’t always live up to that greatness, but we aspire to it, and we want to be led to further greatness to continue the work of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.”
Focus is attempting to expand service to meet demand in the U.S. and Canada. The service presently requires a U.S. or Canadian phone number. Cotter said that Focus is working to respond to the many international requests for a Pope Alarm site that can handle text messaging in other countries.
Pope Alarm will also announce the papal election through its Twitter account @popealarm.