This week the Pope is in Paris; last month the Dalai Lama was. One of them was received by the President, not the other one. Any idea of which one was, which one was not, and why ? In this post I'll give you my view on it (and introduce you some good spots in Paris at the same time ).
Last month the Dalai Lama was in France. He basically went there to meet French Buddhists and give some speeches about Buddhism.
For those of you who do not know (yet) : the Dalai Lama is not only the head of the Buddhist Church but also a key piece of the political field in Tibet. Let's sum it up quickly : Tibet used to be independent, in the 50's (1950-1951) China invaded it and decided that the Dalai Lama would be the head of it as a province of China. As the Dalai Lama was finally not communist enough rumors about the Chinese army wanting to arrest him spread in 1959 and a huge riot occurred in Tibet. The riot was repressed mercilessly by the Chinese army (unofficial documents relate that about 87000 Tibetans died). Fearing that the Chinese army would kill him the Dalai Lama went to exile in India and asked members of the former government of Tibet to follow him. Since then there is a totally unofficial government of Tibet in India, gathered around the Dalai Lama. Officially the Tibet is still a part of China, and riots are still fiercely repressed (the last one was about 6 months ago).
Knowing this you easily understand that China is not really in love with the Dalai Lama ...at the point that last month, as the Dalai Lama was in France, China officially announced that there might be "big consequences" if the French president was to meet the Dalai Lama...Nice isn't it ? Only a few days before the beginning of the Olympics what a pretty picture of itself China gave. Anyway the French president then said that he would not meet the Dalai Lama during his stay in France and that the Dalai Lama had, very wisely, not asked for such a meeting anyhow. But make no mistake, it's not a complete Chinese victory : the French president added that he would definitely meet the Dalai Lama later, and the French first lady attended a Buddhist ceremony led by the Dalai Lama to inaugurate a big Buddhist temple.
What about the Pope now ?
One again let's start about a bit of teaching : In France religion and politics are supposed to be two very very different things (According to google translator the correct word for it is "secularism" ). Politicians, representing the French government, are not supposed to show any obedience to any religion publicly. They must respect every religion but hide as much as possible in public if they believe in one (it's very different than in the US where you hear about "God" every 5mn in every politicians' speeches). It's so true that a little polemic exists now in France because we find that the president shows a little too much that he is catholic (even if catholicism if, by far, the most common religion in France). As an example : although the French president did not meet the Dalai Lama (we explained why earlier) he welcomed the Pope directly at the airport (what he only did before for Nelson Mandela in 2007). Another example : he made the sign of the cross once during an official ceremony (and did not escapology for doing so after...).
Anyway, I think it's a great chance we have, here in France, to have had two great religious leaders teaching peace here in less than two months And it's a cool opportunity to have a look at where they've been in Paris, don't you think we could find some good spots within those ?
Let's start with the easiest one : The Pope. He's been to many places, but we'll focus only on two of them : "Notre Dame cathedral", and the "Invalides"". I've already talked a bit about "Notre Dame" cathedral in a post about sightseeing spots you must see if you're in Paris so I won't add to it here. Let's then see what is the "Invalides" ! To be honest, the first thing I think of when talking about the "Invalides" is rollerblading ! The Invalides is in fact a nice old military monuments (I believe it was built during the 17th century) which, nowadays, mainly hosts museums. But it's also big lawns and a big place just in front of it, leading you to the nicest bridge in Paris (the bridge "Alexandre III" ). And why do I think "rollerblading" when someone says "Invalides" then ? Simply because the place is quite big and is therefore a great spot to rollerblade on (you'll almost always find people rollerblading there ). My advice then : if you have enough time, go and see the Invalides from the outside, and head toward the bridge, it's really a beautiful one (I mean it !)
Now that's we're briefly done with the Pope, where did the Dalai Lama went ? Well the issue is that he moved a lot ! He's been in France for more than twelve days (as far as I know) and moved a lot during his whole journey, so I could not find any exhaustive list of places he's been to. So you know what ? I just won't introduce anymore spots in this post, and I will, instead, add links in this posts when, in the future, I'll talk about places he's been to (tip : I think the next one is going to be about the city hall of Paris, which is really worth it...subscribe to the RSS feed, so you won't miss the coming review of good spots in Paris !).