Pope Francis gets invite to North Korea

Blanche Robertson
October 19, 2018

President Moon Jae-in summoned the Christian love for humanity and the European spirit of unity to inspire peace on the divided Korean Peninsula Wednesday, as the South Korean leader preached his policy to engage and denuclearize the rival North at the Vatican.

President Moon Jae-in, left, shakes hands with Pope Francis before the start of their face-to-face meeting, Thursday night, in Vatican City.

Pope Francis on Thursday received an invitation to visit North Korea and the pontiff indicated that he would consider making what would be a landmark trip to the hermit nation, according to South Korean officials. A trip that would be the first by a pope to officially atheist North Korea would need "serious preparation and consideration", Parolin said. The Vatican insisted at the time a papal visit would only be possible if Catholic priests were accepted in North Korea.

"President Moon met Pope Francis for 37 minutes. The spirit of inclusion and alliance that the European Union has been working to realize is giving inspirations in our journey toward lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula", he said in an address after the mass. Pyongyang's constitution purportedly ensures "freedom of religion" as long as it does not undermine the state, although no openly religious activities are allowed.

But both sides will set up guard posts at the entry points to prevent defections, and for now North and South Korean civilians will visit the JSA at different times to prevent them running into each other. Estimates of the number of North Korean Catholics range from 800 to about 3,000, compared to more than five million in South Korea.

"If the invitation comes, I will definitely respond to that, and I can go", he quoted the pope as saying. He concluded a tour of Colombia that helped to shepherd through a peace agreement the Church brokered between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

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Moon said wonderful changes were already happening on the peninsula.

Moon attended a rare special mass for Korean peace at the Basilica of St. Peter, presided over by Cardinal State Secretary Pietro Parolin.

Moon spoke at the end of the service, saying the prayers offered at the mass would be welcomed.

The president asked the Vatican to continue praying for peace on the peninsula.

In a statement, the Vatican said: "Strong appreciation was expressed for the common commitment to fostering all useful initiatives to overcome the tensions that still exist in the Korean Peninsula, in order to usher in a new season of peace and development". Kim also held an unprecedented summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, and promised to work toward denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

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