(TibetanReview.net, Jan21, 2015) – Pope Francis has denied Dec 2014 media reports that he had turned down an offer for an audience from Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, during the latter’s visit to Rome due to his fear of offending China. Addressing the press aboard the Papal Plane on Jan 19 on a range of issues while returning from his visit to the Philippines, the Pope has said the refusal to meet was only due to protocol.
“It’s a habit in the protocol of the Secretariat of State not to receive heads of state and people at that level when they’re taking part in an international meeting here in Rome. For example, for FAO I didn’t receive anyone. That’s the reason he wasn’t received,” The Pope was quoted as saying.
He was also quoted as saying: “I saw that some newspapers said I didn’t receive him out of fear of China. That’s not true.”
While not making an explicit willingness to meet with the Dalai Lama, who was in Rome in Dec 2014 for a summit of Nobel Peace Prize recipients, the Pope appears to have left the door open for such a possibility. “He asked for an audience some time ago. A date has been fixed. But not for the moment. We are in contact,” the AFP Jan 20 quoted the Pope as saying.
Asked how his relations with China stood, the Pope has replied: “The government of China is respectful, we’re respectful, let’s take things one step at a time. That’s how things are done in history, no? We don’t yet know, but they know I’m available either to receive someone, or to go to China. They know.”
The Pope’s response appears to be at variance with the media reports in Dec 2015. For example, the nepr.net reported Dec 12 that the Vatican’s spokesman had said Dec 12 that a meeting was not possible because of a “delicate situation” in an apparent reference to the Holy See’s relations with China.
Likewise, cruxnow.com Dec 11 quoted the Dalai Lama as saying, “The Vatican administration says it is not possible because it could cause problems.”