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Like billions of other citizens of the Earth,  I'm extremely saddened by the Pope's passing earlier today.

Although I was raised in the Catholic Church,  I'm no longer a very religious person.  It's not that I don't have faith -- I just don't worship publically.  Indeed,  I can't recall the last time I entered a Christian church for a reason other than attending weddings or funerals.

There have been times in recent years where I have longed for a more organized life with religion playing a greater role.  Recently,  I've actually done some  (brief)  studying of Eastern philosophies -- Buddhism,  Confucianism,  Taoism -- but have made no decisions as to what may be "right" for me.

But I respect religion and I would never condemn someone whose beliefs may differ from my own.  As I stated at the beginning of this post,  I think of myself as a citizen of the world and don't condemn those of different nationalities,  races,  or religion.  The fact is that the Pope was a human being,  one who had great compassion for other humans -- not just Catholics.

Earlier this week,  when word was released that his health was deteriorating,  I was angered to read people on one public message board saying how they were glad he was dying,  that friends of theirs had been "injured" by the policies of the Catholic Church.  How can anyone wish another dead by such reasoning?  Any reasoning?

I'm certain in the weeks ahead,  there will be almost as many negative things written about the Pope and the Catholic Church as positive.  This is unfortunate.  We should remember what a great person he was,  not focus on what some people perceive to be "bad" decisions.  This is a time of mourning for a significant portion of the world.  Why can't those who have personal vendettas against the Pope and his actions have sympathy and empathy for those whom he served as a great spiritual leader?  Have respect for the man's memory and honor his achievements,  don't have hate towards him simply because you don't agree.

I would like to share one of the few commentary's on the passing of the Pope I've read today -- and probably one of the few I'll read in the coming weeks,  simply because I've learned not to dwell too much on sadness.  This was posted to the Blogcritics site just a short while ago:

Pope John Paul II's death

Posted by Temple Stark on April 02, 2005 12:24 PM

The death of Pope John Paul II is weighing quite heavy on me right now. I just thought I'd share in case anyone was feeling the same.

It's not that I'm a Catholic, because I'm not. But there are about 1.1 billion Catholics who will be affected by his death. I don't like thinking of that because that's an awful lot of sadness.

But there's a whole lot of good this man has done as well, which I fear will be overblown or underplayed only for the sake of political partisanship. He is not God, so should not be expected to change the world by himself.

What it boils down to for me is that this man is honest and someone you can trust. I think the number of people like this in the world is dwindling rapidly. Yes, you can disagree vehemently or mildly with him but he will not lie and most importanly he will not try to distort what others have said.

He has his beliefs, like so many of us do, but unlike the debates that echo in the halls of Senates everywhere and which rage on the Internet, they are simply presented and he does not argue. His knowledge IS much greater than almost all of the people who will discuss him. He has seen, welcomed, experienced and studied so much more.

And perhaps the equal dread I'm carrying is having to listen and read of so much doggrel and people trying to score political points off this man's death - a man who has quite the personal history that is worth learning from.

Celebrate his life people. Or ignore it. Don't cheapen him or yourself.

The Pope decided to die with dignity - and is doing so - but the legions of people around the world and especially on the Internet will feel compelled to not let him. Can you say he ignored the problem of child abuse in the church too long, yes, but you can simply make the point. Don't argue like he was the one on the front line in your church. Discuss that another day.

Let the man die in peace. He has offered that for 26 years.
The world,  including the non-Catholic one,  has lost a great spiritual leader.  It doesn't matter if you or I agreed with his actions or that for which he stood.  Genuine spiritual leaders speak for all of us regardless of class,  color,  or creed.  They speak to the one thing that we all have in common,  even if we're atheists.  For better or worse,  we're all human,  which means that ideally we share a humanity.