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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Vatican says Pope won't meet Dalai Lama

November 27, 2007

Mon Nov 26, 2007 4:01pm GMT

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict has no plans to meet the Dalai 
Lama next month, the Vatican said on Monday in an about face from a 
previous position that irked China.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said "no audience is 
planned" between Benedict and the Dalai Lama and added there had 
never been an official, written statement of a meeting.

A Vatican official who spoke on condition of anonymity told reporters 
in late October that the Pope would meet the exiled spiritual leader 
of Tibetan Buddhism on December 13.

The meeting during the Dalai Lama's visit to Italy, which would have 
been their second since Benedict's election in 2005, was widely 
reported in the world media.

Beijing's communist government responded early in November by saying 
such a meeting would "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people" and 
urged the Pontiff to take action showing he "is sincere in improving 
relations".

The Dalai Lama has this year met U.S. President George W. Bush at the 
White House, as well as the leaders of Austria, Germany, New Zealand, 
Australia and Canada.

The diplomatic blitz has been met with a stream of vitriol from 
Chinese officials and state media, calling the 72-year-old a 
"splittist" bent on independence for Tibet and accusing him of 
orchestrating anti-Chinese activities in the remote region.

In New Delhi, a Dalai Lama representative said: "His Holiness's 
objective is to promote inter-religious harmony and he will not 
create any inconveniences for anybody."

SOME DISAPPOINTED

Father Bernardo Cervellera, head of AsiaNews, a Catholic news agency 
that specialises in China and earlier this month also reported on the 
December 13 meeting, said he was disappointed that the encounter 
would not take place.

"It was clear from the start that Beijing was not happy about this 
meeting," he told Reuters.

Benedict has made improving ties with Beijing a major goal of his 
pontificate and issued a 55-page open letter in June saying he sought 
to restore full diplomatic relations with Beijing that were severed 
two years after the 1949 Communist takeover.

Catholics in China are split between those who belong to a state-
backed Church and an underground Church whose members are loyal to 
the Vatican.

Relations hit low points several times in recent years as the Vatican 
criticised China for appointing bishops without papal approval. In 
May 2006, Benedict accused China of "grave violations of religious 
freedom".

Relations warmed significantly two months ago when the Vatican 
approved the installation of a new state-approved Catholic bishop of 
Beijing.

The Dalai Lama met Benedict last year in a low profile meeting 
Vatican said was strictly religious in nature.

Benedict's predecessor John Paul met the Dalai Lama a number of times 
during his 27-year papacy and the Dalai Lama attended a major inter-
religious conference hosted by John Paul in 1986.

Italian politicians are divided over whether the Dalai Lama should be 
allowed to address parliament during his visit.

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and Alistair Scrutton)
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