After reportedly declining to meet the Dalai Lama in December due to the “inconveniences” such a meeting could cause, Pope Francis has denied that a fear of angering China influenced the decision, and said that a meeting is being discussed. The Pope has also indicated his aspirations towards repairing relations with Beijing, troubled since Mao broke diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1951. AFP reports:
“The usual protocol of the secretary of state is not to receive heads of state and high ranking personalities when they are in Rome for an international meeting,” he told journalists as he flew back from Manila.
[…] “Some newspapers said that I did not meet with him out of fear of China. This is not true. He asked for an audience some time ago. A date has been fixed. But not for the moment. We are in contact,” he added.
Asked about efforts to forge closer ties between the Vatican and China, he said: “The Chinese are polite, and we are also polite. We are doing things step by step.”
The Chinese “know that I am ready to go there [China] or to receive [Chinese officials] at the Vatican,” he said. [Source]
Beijing routinely pressures foreign governments from meeting with the Dalai Lama, who the Chinese government continues to regard as a separatist. Also see “Jonathan Mirsky: Pope Francis’ China Problem,” (via CDT), or all prior CDT coverage of the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis I.