DHARAMSALA, Jan 20: Pope Francis on Monday left the door open to a meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and cited Vatican protocol as reason for not receiving the Tibetan spiritual leader in December last year.
He said Vatican protocol prevents the Pope from receiving heads of state and people at that level when they are taking part in an international meeting.
“The usual protocol of the secretary of state is not to receive heads of state and high ranking personalities when they are in Rome for an international meeting,” AFP quoted Pope Francis as telling journalists sitting onboard a plane during his trip back to Rome from Manila.
The 79-year-old Tibetan leader was in Rome for a conference of Nobel Peace Prize winners which was earlier scheduled to be held in South Africa but shifted to Rome amid boycott by several Nobel Peace prize laureates over South Africa’s denial of visa to the Tibetan Nobel Peace laureate.
“When there were FAO meetings (the Food and Agriculture Organization summit in November), I did not meet anyone,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis denied his decision was motivated by fear of the Chinese government, which considers the Tibetan spiritual leader a “separatist” and said a date has been fixed for a meeting with the Tibetan leader in the future.
“Some newspapers said that I did not meet with him out of fear of China. This is not true. He asked for an audience some time ago. A date has been fixed. But not for the moment. We are in contact,” he said.
When Pope Francis was elected as the new pope, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who had had cordial meetings with Pope Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, wrote:
“May I offer you my greetings and sense of joy on your historic election as the Pope.”
“Although I am not very familiar with many Catholic saints, I do know about St Francis, having visited Assisi and attended inter-religious gatherings there. His discipline, the simplicity of his way of life and his love for all creatures are qualities that I find deeply inspiring. I am moved to know that his is the name you have chosen for your papacy.”
“ I am very pleased to have met and enjoyed friendly conversations with your immediate predecessors and, for the last forty years or so, have participated in fruitful exchanges with my Christian brothers and sisters. I hope that I may have the honour of calling on you too sometime in the near future.”