Pope Francis rejects meeting with exiled Buddhist leader

Pope Francis has refused to meet with the Dalia Lama because of the Buddhist leader's frosty relationship with China.

Known for championing dialogues especially among all religions, Pope Francis has surprisingly opted out of a meeting with exiled Tibetan leader TheDalai Lama because of the "delicate situation" with China.

The Dalai Lama who is visiting Rome, had requested a meeting  but a  Vatican spokesman said that although the Pope held him "in very high regard", the request had been declined "for obvious reasons".

Reports say sensitivities over the fate of the Catholic minority in China were foremost on the pope's mind when he decided against greeting the Tibetan spiritual leader who has been exiled from China.

"Pope Francis obviously holds the Dalai Lama in very high regard but he will not be meeting any of the Nobel laureates," a Vatican spokesman said before adding that the Pope would send a video message to the conference.

China describes the Dalai Lama as a separatist and reacts angrily when foreign dignitaries meet him.

The 14th Dalai Lama (religious name: Tenzin Gyatso, shortened from Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, born Lhamo Dondrub July, 6 1935) is the current Dalai Lama, as well as the longest-lived incumbent. Dalai Lamas are the head monks of the Gelug school, the newest of the schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and is also well known for his lifelong advocacy for Tibetans inside and outside Tibet.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after Chinese troops crushed an attempted uprising in Tibet. He now advocates a "middle way" with China, seeking autonomy but not independence for Tibet.

A spokesman for the Dalai Lama said he was "disappointed at not being able to call on His Holiness the Pope but he does not want to cause any inconvenience".

Pope Francis isn't the first Pope to deal with the question of whether to meet the Tibetan Buddhist leader.

His predecessor Benedict XVI met the Dalai Lama in 2006 but declined follow-up visits in 2007 and 2009. The issue of how to handle Tibet is of strategic importance for the Vatican because of the tension between China and Vatican over the control of the Catholic Church in China.

The Asian country has around 12 million Catholics, half of whom are members of the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. The remainder belong to underground churches that are loyal to the Vatican.

The main cause of tension between the Vatican and China is the country’s policy of consecrating of bishops without the pope's approval. In the rest of the world, bishops are named by the pontiff.

For China, renouncing control over the nominations would mean relinquishing part of its sovereignty. Beijing is also wary of the influence of Western ideas spread by Catholics and Protestants.

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