Pope Benedict has met with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama for talks that the Vatican labeled as very private and of religious nature.

A spokesman for the Vatican gave no other information about the low-key visit Friday.

This was the first meeting between the two religious leaders since the beginning of Pope Benedict's papacy. It was not listed on the pontiff's official calendar.

The Dalai Lama's previous visits to the Vatican, including the 2003 meeting with Pope John Paul II, also were low-profile to avoid further strain on the Vatican's relations with China.

The Vatican has had no diplomatic relations with China since 1951, two years after the Communists took over. Beijing does not recognize the Roman Catholic Church. It has its own officially sanctioned church.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.