How you can help pick the next pope — or at least bet on it

If you don't believe the power of prayer can help you influence the cardinals' ultimate choice, you can at least play a Sweet Sistine bracket game

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins of Portugal can be yours!
(Image credit: REUTERS/Max Rossi)

The 115 eligible cardinals gathered in the Vatican are the only people on earth who can pick the next pope — and they vote today on when to start their conclave to do just that. But you can help, indirectly, if you have an email address and a few prayers to spare. On Friday, the Vatican gave its official blessing to Adopt a Cardinal, a website launched by Germany-based Catholic youth organization Jugend 2000 (Youth 2000).

Here's how it works: You enter your name and email address in the "adopt" section of the site, and Adopt a Cardinal sends you the name and information about a randomly selected cardinal-elector, "who you will support through your prayer and intercession during the coming weeks before and during the conclave and for three days following the election." The cardinals know they are being adopted: They were told about the website in their gathering Friday morning, where they also talked about a whole host of issues the next pope will have to face. Picking a new pope is generally seen as the most important thing most of these princes of the church will ever do. "The cardinals need to be prayed for," said Ulli Heckl, 37, one of the Germans who created the website.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.