Pope calls for dialogue and tolerance in Tibet

 Pope Benedict XVI yesterday called for an end to violence in Tibet. He told thousands of pilgrims attending his general audience in St Peter's Square: "Violence does not resolve problems, it only aggravates them." The Pope said he had been following events in Tibet "with great trepidation" and urged all sides "to have the courage to choose the path of dialogue and tolerance". China, which has deployed a massive security force to suppress protests in Tibet, said yesterday it was in a "life or death struggle" over the region it has ruled for 57 years. Since Communist China invaded Tibet in 1951, they have systematically destroyed historic temples and monasteries and forced Buddhist monks and nuns to undergo 're-education' in prison camps. At the same time they have carried out a policy of encouraging Chinese to move into the region. While there are about five million indigenous Tibetans, there are now an estimated six million Chinese living in Tibet. The Chinese claim 13 people have been killed in the rioting in Lhasa. Tibetans in exile say scores if not hundreds have lost their lives and many more have been injured and have not received medical help. Relations between the Vatican and China have been difficult for many years, although the number of Chinese Catholics (along with other Christian denominations) is growing rapidly. Beijing severed ties with the Vatican in 1951 over the Holy See's diplomatic recognition of Taiwan. In 1957, China set up the Patriotic Association to formally oversee an officially approved Catholic Church. But many thousands of Catholics remain loyal to Rome. These 'underground' Churches and their bishops, priests and religious have suffered persecution and imprisonment from time to time, but in recent years more have been allowed to practice relatively freely. Last year a new bishop in Guangdong, southern China, was ordained with the Vatican's approval. The Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and the Pope met in October 2006. The Dalai Lama had eight meetings with Pope John Paul II. Source: VIS/FT

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