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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Pope Francis skips meeting with Dalai Lama, not wanting to upset China

December 15, 2014

The Christian Times, December 12, 2014 - Confronting a diplomatic dilemma, Pope Francis has chosen not to meet the visiting Dalai Lama in Rome, despite the "very high regard" he holds for the Tibetan exile and Buddhist leader and his well-known enthusiasm to meet other religious leaders.

The reason for the apparent snub did not come from the Vatican but from the Dalai Lama himself. "This time I won't meet Pope Francis," the Dalai Lama said on Wednesday after arriving in Rome, adding that he would have been "very happy" to do so.

"The Vatican administration says it's not possible because it could cause inconveniences," the widely admired Tibetan exile leader said, hinting that the Vatican may be unwilling to provoke China, a country with an estimated 12 million practising Catholics. About 6 million of these Catholics belong to a state-sanctioned Church while the other 6 million attend clandestine churches with allegiance to the Vatican.

The Dalai Lama is in Rome to attend a summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners this weekend.

The Vatican's chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, would not say whether the Pope had personally declined a request for a meeting with the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists.

"Pope Francis obviously holds the Dalai Lama in very high regard, but he will not be meeting any of the Nobel laureates," Lombardi told reporters.

The Dalai Lama advocates greater rights for Tibet, a region annexed by China in 1950. In 1959, he led an uprising against the Chinese authorities there but failed, prompting him to flee to India where he is now based.

Since then, Beijing has vehemently objected to meetings between the Dalai Lama and other heads of state.

The Vatican has been trying to improve relations with Beijing since diplomatic ties between the two states were cut in 1951.

During a visit to South Korea in August, Pope Francis sent his "best wishes" to the Chinese people and specifically to Chinese President Xi Jinping as he spoke about the possibility of closer relations with China if the Communist leaders gave Catholics more rights and allowed the Vatican to appoint bishops there.

The Pope made his radio message to the Chinese people while aboard the papal plane flying him to South Korea at a time when Beijing was conducting an intense campaign of repression against Chinese Christians, with authorities destroying churches or removing their crosses.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI met the Dalai Lama in Rome in October 2006. The Buddhist leader visited Rome again in 2007 and 2009 but during those times he was not granted papal audience, according to the Italian wire service ANSA.

Nevertheless, Lombardi said Pope Francis would send a video message to the three-day summit of Nobel winners.

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