Benedict XVI meets Dalai-Lama

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Saturday, October 14, 2006 File:Tenzin Gyatzo foto 2.jpg

The 14th and current Dalai Lama.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

The very long lasting previous pope, John Paul II, had met eight times with the Dalai Lama but the recently elected pope did not talk to him before yesterday.

The visit was "private" and focused exclusively on "religious" matters, a Vatican spokesman said.

Pope Benedictus XVI.

The Vatican has kept a low profile on past visits by the Dalai Lama, including his last in 2003 with John Paul II, to avoid a further chill with China.

China's government bars Catholics from having contact with the Vatican and allows worship only in government-monitored churches. Millions remain loyal to the pope and worship in secret, but priests and other members of congregations are frequently detained and harassed.

The pope also met with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi earlier in the day, as well as Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski yesterday, both of them were documented on the Vatican's Web site.

The pope's meeting with the Tibetan leader was not listed among his official audiences. Journalists were kept well away and no pictures of the encounter have been released. The Vatican has not released any details of the visit.