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Pope Francis, Dalai Lama Meeting in Rome Cancelled as China Protests

Pope Francis and Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama will not meet in Rome, a western media report said Friday.

The latter is in the Italian capital to attend the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace laureates, which was earlier scheduled in South Africa but cancelled in protest over denial of visa to him.

They are two of the most admired religious leaders in the world but Pope Francis has chosen not to meet the Dalai Lama in Rome this weekend, when the Tibetan leader living in exile attends a summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners, the Telegraph reported.

The decision reflects an acute diplomatic dilemma for the Pope, at a time when the Vatican is attempting to improve its relations with Beijing and wants to avoid upsetting the Chinese authorities for fear of provoking trouble for the country’s Catholic community, the paper said.

According to an official website of the elderly monk, who is based in this northern Indian hill town, the Dalai Lama reached Rome where Enzo Cursio, vice president of the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, received him.

The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates began Friday in Rome, the city where the summit was originally conceived, and will continue over the next three days.

Asked about the violent conflicts taking place in several parts of the world in the name of religion, the Dalai Lama replied to reporters: “Although conflict on political or economic grounds is at least understandable on some level, violence in the name of religion is unthinkable.”

The Dalai Lama drew attention to the example of India with its longstanding tradition of tolerance and non-violence, where the world’s major religious traditions have lived side by side in harmony for centuries.

“This time I won’t meet Pope Francis,” the paper quoted the Dalai Lama as saying Wednesday after arriving in Rome, however, adding that he would have been “very happy” to meet him.

“The Vatican administration says it’s not possible because it could cause inconveniences.”

The Vatican confirmed that the two men, whose shared concern for the poor and the downtrodden give them much common ground, would not meet.

“Pope Francis obviously holds the Dalai Lama in very high regard but he will not be meeting any of the Nobel laureates,” the paper quoted a Vatican spokesman as saying.

Instead, the South American pontiff will send a video message to the conference of Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Under Pope Francis, the Holy See is trying to improve its previously fraught relations with China.

When he visited South Korea in August, he became the first pontiff ever to be allowed to fly through Chinese air space.

In a radio message, the Pope had 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, said the paper.

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, who in 1989 was given the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for Tibet, lives in exile with some 140,000 Tibetans.

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