DHARAMSALA, Jan 23: Two days after Pope Francis told a group of journalists that a date has been “fixed” for a meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, China on Wednesday urged the Vatican to create conditions for better bilateral ties.
Although the Chinese Foreign Ministry did not explicitly criticize the Vatican but it implied that the dialogue between Beijing and the Holy Sea could be harmed if the Pope met with the 79-yr-old Tibetan leader.
“Based on the relevant principles, China will continue with the constructive dialogue with [the] Vatican to improve bilateral ties,” western media reports quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying as saying at a press briefing in response to a question about a telegram sent by the Pope to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“We hope the Vatican side can take concrete actions to create conditions for the improvement of bilateral relations.”
According to Chinese State media Xinhua, China has on several occasions stated that the Holy Sea should cut its diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognize the People’s Republic of China as the sole government representing China and also to stop interfering in China’s “internal affairs” in the name of religion.
Pope Francis on Monday cited Vatican protocol as reason for not receiving the Tibetan spiritual leader in December last year when he was in Rome for a Nobel Peace laureate’s summit and left the door open to a meeting with the Tibetan leader.
“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,” Pope Francis told journalists sitting onboard a plane during his trip back to Rome from Manila.
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.