Friday, October 13, 2006

Shhh . . . Pope Meets with Dalai Lama

As reported by the Australian Associated Press; Friday Oct 13

Pope Benedict held talks with the Dalai Lama but the Vatican, which has very difficult relations with China, gave the visit by the exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhism a low profile.

A Vatican spokesman confirmed that the visit had taken place but said it was "strictly private and of a strictly religious nature".

The Dalai Lama's name did not appear on the list of people received by the Pope in the Vatican's daily bulletin, as the names of most visitors, including religious leaders, usually do.

The Dalai Lama, who is on a visit to Italy, received the same low-profile treatment when he met the late Pope John Paul in 2003.

The Dalai Lama has been based in India since 1959, after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.

Communist troops entered Tibet in 1950 and overthrew the Buddhist administration. Since then, China has dealt harshly with Tibetans pressing for political and religious autonomy.

Beijing has had no diplomatic relations with the Vatican since 1951, two years after the Communist Party took power.

China allows Catholics to worship only as part of a state-backed patriotic Church that does not recognise the Pope's authority.

The Vatican estimates that about eight million Chinese Catholics worship in the "underground churches" not recognised by the Beijing government, while five million belong to the state-controlled Church.

Beijing wants the Vatican to sever its ties with Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing says is a breakaway province, before talks on re-establishing ties can start.