I was watching CNN on Friday when John Paul II was passing away in his apartment at the Vatican. Prior to this day, he was giving us his last lesson of dying, this time in silence. On St. Peter&

s Square in Rome, there were thousands of people. Many of them were quite young. Large crowds in Poland and in the world were in tears.

CNN had a live transmission of the pope&

s death. Since that morning, his health was rapidly declining. Everyone was anticipating the pope&

s death to occur soon.

CNN filled this anticipation with numerous attractions. Invited guests recalled their encounters with the pope, often talking about what they said or didn&

t say to pope. It is quite common for people to concentrate on themselves, even in times of such importance.

Politicians praised the pope for his efforts in overturning communism. Gay activists called him a man of the past. Some priests reminded us that he appealed to our deep sense of humanity, but we did not necessarily listened to him.

One of the invited quests &

a priest and journalist at the same time &

recalled a recent meeting with the Holy Father during which he revealed to the pope that he agreed to write a story of his upcoming death to the New York Times. The pope apparently looked at him with mischief and asked, &

But what if you are going to die first?&

After this segment, we could hear President Bush would be traveling to Rome for the Pope&

s funeral. In his weekly radio address he described him as a great defender of world peace. Common people in the streets were more authentic.

Many simply cried. I left the room for a moment but I was back just in time to see on the screen an expert in moral theology answering the question on what would happen to the Catholic Church if pope slips into a coma.

The expert assured the CNN reporter that the pope would most definitely die soon. Soon after this, there was a commercial advertising new laundry detergent. Moments later, there were clips from my home city of Warsaw. The important soccer game, a big national event in Poland, was just interrupted. Everyone was standing up and singing the Polish national anthem.

I am an American citizen now, but it is hard to be away from my first home at a moment like this.

Andrzej Axer