North Korea Kim Invites Pope To Visit Pyongyang

09 October, 2018, 14:45 | Author: Angel Logan
  • Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump shake hands during their historic summit in Singapore back in June

"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 Pyongyang", Mr Moon's spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom, told reporters.

The North Korean dictator is usually seen being chauffeured in a top-of-the-line Mercedes limousine, such as in April when an escort of bodyguards ran alongside Kim's auto on the way to his summit with South Korean President, Moon Jae-in.

"President Moon will visit the Vatican on October 17 and 18 to reaffirm its blessing and support for peace and stability of the Korean peninsula", the spokesman told a news briefing.

A spokesman for South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, said Kim also invited Pope Francis to Pyongyang.

Kim has been intensely engaged in diplomacy in recent months in what is being seen as an effort to leverage his nuclear weapons programme for an easing of economic sanctions and military pressure. Nuclear diplomacy later stalled because of suspicions over how honest North Korea is about its disarmament pledge.

The dovish Moon has pushed rapprochement with Kim, meeting him three times in the a year ago.

Although freedom of religion is protected under North Korea's constitution, in practice worship is tightly controlled and limited to state-run institutions.

North Korea strictly controls the religious activities of its people, and a similar invitation for then-Pope John Paul II to visit after a 2000 inter-Korean summit never resulted in a meeting.

It comes nearly two decades after a similar invitation was extended to Pope John Paul II, although a visit never came to pass after a request for Catholic priests to be accepted in North Korea was denied. The Vatican insisted at the time that a papal visit would only be possible if Catholic priests were accepted in North Korea.

The day before, in St. Peter's Basilica, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state and the pope's second-in-command, will say a "Mass for Peace" on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea's constitution promises a "right to faith" but a 2014 United Nations report said Christians face "persecution and severe punishments" if they practiced their religion outside state-controlled Churches.

While Kim's actions since have fallen short of Washington's demands, the Trump administration is preparing for a second summit.

The two Koreas held three summits this year, following years of confrontation marked by the North's nuclear and missile tests.

Moon's Europe tour, scheduled for October 13 to 21, is primarily to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting in Belgium and includes stops in France, Italy and Denmark, his office said.

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