Sixteen years after his last visit to Montreal, His Holiness the Dalai Lama returned to the city Saturday with a message of compassion and joyfulness.

The Tibetan spiritual leader met with a group of 500 education students at McGill University before delivering a public address to a full-capacity crowd of 14,000 admirers at the Bell Centre.

"Every human being has a fundamental right to have happy life, joyful life," said the Dalai Lama.

"All religions (have the) same message; message of love, compassion, forgiveness. So all religions have the same potential to bring inner peace," he said.

Tibetan-Canadian photographer Thinley Gyaltsen was treated by a blessing of his prayer beads by His Holiness.

"This is going to stick with me the rest of my life and I'm going to pass it to my next generation, so this means a lot to me," said Gyaltsen, who had driven from Toronto for the event.

The 74-year-old exiled leader told reporters that Quebecers do a good job of living together despite having different opinions.

This is the third visit for the Dalai Lama to Montreal after visits in 1993 and 1980.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner paid visits to Vancouver and Calgary this week and will head to New York City within the coming days.

With files from The Canadian Press