Pope breaks “silence” on Tibet with carefully worded appeal

March 19, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessings at the end of his weekly general audience in Paul VI hall at the VaticanAs readers of this blog will have noticed, I posted a note yesterday about calls by Italian intellectuals for Pope Benedict to break his supposed silence over Tibet. On Wednesday he did so at his weekly general audience, making a carefully worded appeal (here in Italian) for an end to the suffering of the people there.

Given the delicate nature of relations between the Vatican and China, the appeal seemed to strike a balance between his concern for the people and Vatican diplomacy. He mentioned the violence without mentioning China.

In fairness to the Pope, the accusations of “silence” made by some in Italy were perhaps, as was noted by his defenders in yesterday’s blog, a bit premature. Unless he is saying a Mass on a Church holy day or a similar occasion, the Pope only has set days in which he can make a public appeal that the Vatican believes is most effective — Sunday at the Angelus prayer from his window and Wednesday at the general audience.

The unrest in Tibet began last Friday. He did not mention the troubles on Palm Sunday. So the wait for the “silence” to be broken lasted only five days.

In a related development, the Rome-based Catholic agency Asianews published some pretty harrowing photos from Tibetan province of Amdo, which currently is part of the northern Chinese province of Sichuan. Asianews said the photos were sent from the monastery of Kirti to the Free Tibet Campaign and from there to Asianews. They speak for themselves.

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Some day the Chinese people will realize that the 29 intellectuals and scholars who published an open letter to the Chinese government urging a reform of Tibet policy are heroes. I am deeply concerned about their welfare, as these brave moral leaders will almost certainly be punished by the Chinese government for their outspoken criticism of the government’s brutal Tibetan policy.
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