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Catholic World News News Feature

Pope will not meet with Dalai Lama November 26, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI will not meet with the Dalai Lama when the Tibetan Buddhist leader visits Rome in December, the Vatican has announced.

The announcement contradicts reports that had circulated early in November and sparked angry reactions from Beijing.

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that "no audience is planned" during the Dalai Lama's trip to Italy. The Vatican had never officially announced plans for such an audience, although informed officials had told reporters that a meeting was being planned.

Reports that the Dalai Lama would meet with the Pontiff drew a strong reaction from the Chinese government, which warned that any such meeting would be "an offense." A government spokesman in Beijing said that the Vatican should "show sincerity to improve relations" by abandoning the plans.

The Chinese regime has consistently objected to any meetings by world leaders with the Dalai Lama, who is regarded as a key symbol of Tibet's hope for freedom from Beijing. The Dalai Lama has frequently expressed his opposition to Chinese occupation of his country-- although he has dropped his public demands for Tibetan independence. He has lived in exile since 1959.

The Vatican has been engaged for months in delicate negotiations with Beijing, aimed to ease government controls on the Catholic Church in China. While Pope Benedict has directly challenged the Communist government's claim to authority over the Church-- most notably in his June 30 message to Chinese Catholics-- he has generally avoided clashes on matters that the Holy See does not consider essential to the Church's mission.

The Pope met with the Dalai Lama in October 2006, but the Vatican underlined that the meeting was a "private courtesy visit" and the conversation was confined exclusively to religious matters. That papal audience with the Buddhist leader did not appear on the official Vatican calendar.

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