VATICAN CITY, (Reuters) – Pope Francis has denied a private audience to the Dalai Lama because it could harm the Holy See’s already fraught relations with China, the Vatican said yesterday.
The request was declined “for obvious reasons concerning the delicate situation” with China, a Vatican spokesman said. The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, understood the situation, he added.
The Dalai Lama, in Rome for a meeting of Nobel Peace Prize winners, told Italian media he had approached the Vatican about a meeting but was told it would not be possible.
Tenzin Taklha, a senior official in the office of the Dalai Lama, said in an email: “His Holiness’ standard response has been that he is disappointed at not being able to call on His Holiness the Pope but he does not want to cause any inconvenience.”
The Catholic Church in China is divided into two communities – an official Church known as the Patriotic Association answerable to the Communist Party, and an underground Church that swears allegiance only to the pope in Rome.
A Vatican official, who asked not to be identified, said the decision was “not taken out of fear but to avoid any suffering by those who have already suffered” – a reference to Catholics in China who are loyal to the pope.