China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang expressed his appreciation for Pope Francis’ decision not to meet with the Dalai Lama, who was in Rome for a summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners. Qin said Monday that China had “noticed” the Holy See’s attitude.
China is always sincere about improving relations with Vatican, Qin said.
“China will continue to hold constructive dialogue with the Holy See,” Qin said, and expressed his hope that the “Vatican will make joint efforts with China so that the two sides can meet each other halfway to improve bilateral relations.”
Vatican officials earlier explained that Francis’ decision stemmed from an attempt to avoid getting involved in the “tensions” between the Tibetan Leader and Beijing, especially at this juncture in which dialogue between China and the Vatican is progressing.
Other media reports simply said the request was declined “for obvious reasons concerning the delicate situation” with China.
The Dalai Lama himself said that the Vatican’s decision was “understandable,” acknowledging that “for some people I can be a source of trouble.” This past summer, the Tibetan leader expressed his admiration for Francis, saying that he “carries his teaching forward with resolution and transparency.”
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu Monday expressed his sadness over the Pope’s decision not to meet with the Dalai Lama, which he claimed was made under duress.
“I am deeply saddened and distressed that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, should give in to these pressures and decline to meet the Dalai Lama,” Tutu said in a statement.
Tutu acknowledged the “dilemma in which so many have been finding themselves with regard to their relationships with His Holiness and the People’s Republic of China.”
Not long ago, Beijing made it known that it is now ready to offer a compromise in the contentious issue of how Catholic bishops are appointed in China, which has been a sticking point in their relations with the Vatican.
There have been no formal diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See since 1951, when China cut off ties with the Vatican. Since then, the Holy See has had diplomatic relations with Taiwan alone.
Vatican observers suggest that diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican are a priority for Francis, and that he also is concerned about the delicate situation of Catholics in China and the effects of his actions on them.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome