Pope John Paul II is meeting the Dalai Lama today, after the Tibetan Buddhist leader indicated his desire to congratulate the Holy Father in person on the 25th anniversary of his election, and to thank him for his work for world peace. The Dalai Lama is in Rome this week at the invitation of an Italian lawmakers' group. He is participating in a summit of Nobel Peace prize winners. An important symbol of Tibet's national aspirations, the Dalai Lama has lived in exile since 1959 when his country was occupied by China. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. The Dalai Lama will also meet with Italy's deputy foreign minister Margherita Boniver, as well as the speakers of both houses of parliament, party leaders and labour union chiefs. He has met with Pope John Paul on several previous occasions, and has allied himself wholeheartedly with Vatican efforts to promote religious freedom, especially in China and occupied Tibet. His role in calling for an end to Chinese rule in Tibet has been likened to that of the Pope's in eastern Europe during the Cold War. Speaking at a news conference yesterday, the Dalai Lama said China should be supported rather than criticised as it moves towards democracy. He added that support from the international community for the Chinese would ultimately help the cause of a free Tibet. He added that if he were allowed back to Tibet he would retire. He said: "I will hand over all my political authority to a Tibetan local government, and that local government will hopefully, eventually, be an elected government."
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