Italy: China blamed for absence of Papal audience for Dalai Lama

Rome, 27 Nov. (AKI) - Italy's Tibetan community has accused China of using its political influence to prevent a meeting of the Dalai Lama and Pope Benedict XVI.

"As always China threatens governments and puts pressure on them so that the Dalai Lama cannot be received by other countries. Everyone seems to be afraid," said Santu Lama (Jinpa-la), president of the Tibetan community in Italy.

The Vatican has said that Pope Benedict XVI will not meet the Dalai Lama when the Tibetan spiritual leader arrives in Italy next month.

Referring to the absence of a papal audience, Jinpa-la said he did not feel "disappointed" about it because in the past "the Holy See has already done a lot for the Dalai Lama and for Tibet".

In October last year the Pope had a private audience with the Dalai Lama "on strictly religious issues". Benedict's predecessor, Pope John II, also met the Dalai Lama several times during his 27-year papacy.

"The Pope has been clear in saying he would look at only religious and not political questions, " Jinpa-la said.

Speaking about the uncertainty of Italian institutions about whether to receive the Dalai Lama, Jinpa-la said:" Although the Italian people have demonstrated their sensitivity to the Tibetan cause, the politicians seem to be less clear.

"Whichever way they go, eventually the truth with regard to Tibet will come out, it cannot be hidden forever," he said.

The Dalai Lama will arrive in Milan from 7 December and then visit Udine, Turin and Rome.

The 72nd Tibetan leader will come to Italy after meeting US president George W. Bush at the White House and government leaders from Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

Anonymous Vatican sources had said in late October the Dalai Lama would meet the Pope on 13 December. Soon after the Chinese foreign ministry said such a meeting would "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people".

Italian politicians are also discussing whether the Tibetan spiritual leader should visit the parliament.

A total of 165 parliamentarians have asked the president of the lower house Fausto Bertinotti to allow the Tibetan leader to address them.

"Sincerely I find the issue embarassing. Their stance has not yet been clearly defined," Pierluigi Mantini, member of the Italy-Tibet interparliamentary group.

"I believe there is excessive caution, also because we are speaking about a Nobel peace prize winner, whom the house could welcome given that we are confronting questions like the cultural autonomy of Tibet."

Mantini believes "we are losing an important occasion, although I have faith in a change in the actual decision".

"Personally I am disappointed and ask Veltroni, as leader of the [centre-left] Democratic Party (PD) to not limit ourselves to the good gestures made in the past towards the Dalai Lama and Tibet," he said.


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