Pope Francis has chosen not to meet with the Dalai Lama at the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in Rome this weekend, reportedly with the intention to improve ties with Beijing and to avoid stirring up trouble for China’s Catholic community.
“This time I won’t meet Pope Francis,” the Dalai Lama said on Wednesday after landing in Rome. “The Vatican administration says it’s not possible because it could cause inconveniences.”
The Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis would not meet with the Dalai Lama or any other Nobel laureates, and will instead send a video message to the conference of Nobel Peace Prize Winners.
The snub is believed to be an attempt on behalf of the Catholic Church to improve relations with China, where there are an estimated 12 million practicing Catholics, The Telegraph reports.
When [Pope Francis] visited South Korea in August, he became the first pontiff ever to be allowed to fly through Chinese air space.
In a radio message he sent his “best wishes” to Xi Jinping, the Chinese president – it is customary for the Pope to send greetings to every country that he flies over when travelling abroad.
His greeting, however, came during one of the most intense campaigns of repression for Chinese Christians, with authorities destroying churches or removing their crosses.
The Dalai Lama, seen as a separatist in the eyes of China, is no stranger to rejection by leaders trying to get on Beijing’s good side. The Tibetan exile has not been granted a papal audience since his meeting with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2006.
[Image Credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales) // Glyn Lowe Photoworks.]