Pope Francis declines audience with the Dalai Lama as Vatican hopes to improve 'delicate situation' with China

The Vatican said the Pope would not meet any of the Noble Peace Prize laureates in Rome

Pope Francis has reportedly refused to meet with the Dalai Lama over fears about the potential impact on the Catholic Church’s relations with China.

The request was declined “for obvious reasons concerning the delicate situation” with China, a Vatican spokesman told Reuters today. The Dalai Lama understood the situation, he added.

The Tibetan monk, who was 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 could create inconveniences.

A Church official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters the decision was “not taken out of fear but to avoid any suffering by those who have already suffered”.

The Vatican said the Pope would not meet any of the laureates and that Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin had sent them a message on the pope's behalf.

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Pope Francis

In China the Catholic Church 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.

The Vatican has had no formal diplomatic ties to Beijing since shortly after the Communist Party took power in 1949, but has been trying to improve relations with China.

In August Francis became the first Pope allowed to cross Chinese air space on his way to South Korea. During his flight, he sent a message of goodwill to China.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said at the time that Beijing was sincere about wanting to improve relations with the Vatican.

 

The main point of contention between Beijing and the Vatican is which side should have the final say in the appointment of bishops. Another stumbling block is the Holy See's recognition of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.

The last meeting between a pope and the Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, was in 2006, when he met former pope Benedict XVI.

The Rome gathering was set to take place in South Africa in October but the government denied the Dalai Lama a visa.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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