09 October 2018
Kim Jong Un invites Pope Francis to North Korea
The Vatican and North Korea have no formal diplomatic relations and no pope has ever visited North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has invited Pope Francis to the country's capital city, Pyongyang, South Korea’s presidential office announced on 8 October.
South Korean president Moon Jae-in, is due to deliver the invitation during his visit the Vatican next week as part of a trip to Europe. Mr Moon will meet with Francis on 18 October.
The Vatican and North Korea have no formal diplomatic relations and no pope has ever visited North Korea.
"During the meeting with Pope Francis, [Mr Moon] will relay the message from chairman Kim Jong-un that he would ardently welcome the Pope if he visits [the North Korean capital] Pyongyang," Mr Moon's spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom, told reporters on Tuesday.
The Vatican has not commented on the invitation, but it told news outlet, North Korea News, that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, would celebrate a “Mass for peace” for the Korean Peninsula on 17 October at St Peter's which Mr Moon would attend.
North Korea has a Catholic church in Pyongyang, the Jangchung Catholic Church, and the state-run Korean Catholic Association estimates there are 3,000 Catholics in the country though neither are affiliated with the Holy See. Pope John Paul II did receive an invite from Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il, in 2000.
Outside of state-controlled churches, Christians, according to a UN report in 2014, face persecution and severe punishment for practising their faith.
North Korea is currently seeking diplomatic support in its quest to have international sanctions eased and is engaged in negotiations with the US over its nuclear program and ahead of a possible second summit with President Donald Trump aimed at implementing their June accord.
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