Tutu ‘deeply saddened’ by Pope’s refusal to meet Dalai Lama

Tutu appealed to Pope Francis to reconsider meeting the Dalai Lama.

FILE:  Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu says he is deeply saddened that Pope Francis has given in to pressures and has declined to meet the Dalai Lama.

Tutu has appealed to Pope Francis to reconsider meeting the Dalai Lama.

He says the Dalai Lama has preached peace, coexistence and compassion, adding he's aware of the dilemma in which so many people have been finding themselves with regard to their relationship with the Tibetan spiritual leader and China.

In a statement, Tutu also indicated he had the highest admiration for Pope Francis.

International news agencies reported a spokesperson for the Pope confirmed he declined to meet the Dalai Lama despite him being at the 14th Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome.

The Vatican said on Friday that Pope Francis denied a private audience to the Dalai Lama because it could harm the Holy See's already fraught relations with China.

The request was declined "for obvious reasons concerning the delicate situation" with China, a Vatican spokesperson said. The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, understood the situation, he added.

The Dalai Lama, in Rome for a meeting of Nobel Peace Prize winners, told Italian media he had approached the Vatican about a meeting but was told it would not be possible.

Tenzin Taklha, a senior official in the office of the Dalai Lama, said in an email: "His Holiness's standard response has been that he is disappointed at not being able to call on His Holiness the Pope but he does not want to cause any inconvenience."

The Vatican said the pope would not meet any of the laureates and that the number two in the Vatican hierarchy, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, had sent them a message on the pope's behalf.

The last meeting between a pope and the Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, was in 2006, when he met former pope Benedict XVI.

The Tibetan spiritual leader was in Rome to attend the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome on Sunday.

The summit was moved to Italy from Cape Town at the last minute, following the debacle surrounding his visa application.

The spiritual leader claimed he was denied a South African visa which prompted several laureates to cancel their trips to the Mother City.

Previous delays in dealing with the Dalai Lama's visa requests by the African National Congress-led government have angered South Africans who see it as a betrayal of the country's commitment to human rights since apartheid ended 20 years ago.

A South African court ruled two years ago that officials had "unreasonably delayed" a decision on granting the Dalai Lama a visa in 2011,

Because of the delay, the Dalai Lama was unable to attend Tutu's 80th birthday in Cape Town in October 2011. The previous visa denial, in 2009, was also for a peace conference