ROME – The Pope John Paul II greeted the Dalai Lama in a low profile gathering at the Vatican, Thursday, Nov. 27. The meeting, a “brief courtesy visit of strictly religious content,” was part of the Tibetan leader’s three-day stay in Italy.
The eight between the two spiritual leaders was unannounced and unattended by the media, in an effort to continue attempts for dialogue with Beijing. China, which has no formal ties with the Vatican, allows its Catholics to worship only in state-monitored churches. Millions of worshippers however, belong to the underground system of churches that remain loyal to the pope.
Throughout his visit, the Dalai Lama advised the country to befriend China in the effort to promote human rights and religious freedom, rather than to confront the delicate issue on Tibet. The Dalai Lama, who asks autonomy for Tibet, led about 80,000 Tibetans into exile in 1959, 8 years after the Chinese occupation, to head a government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.
On Wednesday, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate met with members of the parliament and the deputy foreign minister. During the meeting, the Dalai Lama was asked whether he was concerned that China was pressuring world leaders not to receive him; he replied that he had no such worries.
"I do not want to create any embarrassment, any inconvenience," he said. "My main sort of interest, or main purpose or goal is promotion of human values and promotion of religious harmony."
And as for the reason to meet with the Pope; he replied that it was merely an expression of his appreciation for the pope’s work promoting peace and religious harmony “in spite of his age, his health.”