As I write this Pope John Paul II is balanced precariously between earth and eternity, with the balance expected to tip towards eternity at any moment. I'm not a Catholic, so I don't put the Pope on any sort of spiritual pedestal, but there's no doubt that JPII was an extraordinary man.
I know there are fundamentalists out there that would quickly condemn all Catholics to hell, but I'm not one of them. Based on his teachings and his life, I'm certain that JPII has a heavenly celebration in his immediate future.
I heard it said once that the reason that Billy Graham was still with us was that the angels had not come up with an appropriate welcome yet. That may be true of JPII as well.
Even for non-Catholics it's been hard to watch the rapid physical decline of this man. I'm old enough to remember his elevation to Pope and remember what a remarkably vibrant man he was. He was very physically active and had almost a rock star type special effect on young audiences. We saw that in Los Angeles and other stops in 150 countries around the world.
JPII stood by his morals and never retreated from his beliefs. He wanted freedom for all, and was able to see his beloved Poland freed from the grip of communism. The church has had its problems with all the sex scandals, and there will be discussions as to whether JPII could have done more to deal with that problem, but over all I think he was an excellent example to the rest of the world.
I hope the College of Cardinals is wise enough to select a new Pope that is young enough and active enough to pick up where JPII left off. If they elect an old man, I think they will do themselves a disservice. The next Pope will have some mighty big shoes to fill.
Godspeed John Paul!