Catholic World News News Feature
Visit to Italy is not political, Dalai Lama says December 10, 2007
The Dalai Lama, whose trip to Italy this week has caused keen discomfort for some government and religious leaders, insists that his visit "is not a political one," the ANSA news agency reports.
"I don't want to make problems," the Dalai Lama told reporters in Milan, where he was beginning a 10-day tour. But angry rumblings from Beijing-- where Chinese government leaders see the Buddhist monk as a symbol of the drive for Tibetan independence-- have put pressure on political officials to avoid meetings with the Dalai Lama. A spokesman for China's foreign ministry announced that his government would be unhappy with public officials who met with a man whose efforts are, he said, "intended to break up China."
Milan's Mayor Letizia Moratti has become the latest official to bow out of a planned official meeting with the Dalai Lama. (The mayor did meet with him privately, after attending a talk that the Dalai Lama gave in Milan.) Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi will not be in Rome this week when the Tibetan spiritual leader is in town.
Vatican officials had indicated unofficially, early in November, that the Pope would hold a private audience with the Dalai Lama. But those reports were later contradicted by an official public statement, and both the Vatican and the Dalai Lama now say that no meeting will take place.
Pope Benedict 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.