Vice President Cheney (search) broke the usually jocular mood at the annual Radio-TV Correspondents Association (search) dinner with a tribute to the late Pope John Paul II (search).

Cheney said Wednesday night that the pontiff was "a force for good in the world" who helped guide great events. He said it's appropriate that President Bush is the first president to attend a papal funeral, since John Paul was "the rarest of men" whose name will remain familiar "hundreds of years from now."

The vice president did manage to poke fun at himself. The often serious Cheney, who has a history of heart ailments, noted that he recently found himself shaking and short of breath and was concerned until his wife explained, "Dick, that's called laughing."