Dalai Lama to be named honourary citizen of Milan

Milan will present keys of the city.

The Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetan Buddhist community in exile, will be named honorary citizen of the city by Milan councillor Lamberto Bertolé on Thursday 21 October.

During his fourth visit to Milan, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, will be met on arrival at the airport – which of Milan’s two airports has not yet been announced – by mayor Giuseppe Sala before proceeding to the University Bicocca to hold his lectio magistralis on “Ethics and awareness in a global world” and receive the keys of the city.

His programme in Milan will centre around two days of meditation and teaching hosted in the Rho fairground, open to the public with booking still available on the event website. On Friday morning, His Holiness will also bestow a particular form of initiation, called Avalokiteshvara, in order to reach out to as many people as possible.

The Friday afternoon session will be in the form of a public talk on “The source of genuine happiness”.

The visit has again posed problems of diplomacy for Milan’s city hall. The Dalai Lama, who is based in Dharamsala in India, was forced to flee there in 1959 during China’s invasion of Tibet, and has since then led the protest against what the Tibetan political administration in exile sees as illegal occupation.

During the visit of the Nobel Peace laureate to Milan in 2012, he was received by the then mayor, Giuseppe Pisapia, but pressure by the Chinese consul caused city hall to stop short of awarding the keys of the city. This week’s visit will see Sala meeting his guest at the airport, considered “neutral territory”, and the honorary citizenship awarded by a city councillor.

The visit is also seen as the reason behind the switch of the forthcoming visit by Chinese technology minister Wan Gang, originally scheduled for Milan, to Turin.