Pope is invited to North Korea, indicates will consider it

Pyongyang's promise to leave existing arsenal seems to be fading

Pyongyang's promise to leave existing arsenal seems to be fading

During a visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican, South Korean President Moon Jae-in shared a message from Kim Jong Un: Please come to North Korea.

It is unknown whether the Vatican will insist on North Korea accepting Catholic priests in the country as a pre-condition for a papal visit, something that has always been a prerequisite for an improvement of its relations with the North.

Aides close to the pope have said he is open to taking what they call first steps in places where the Church has been persecuted in the hope that the situation could improve.

Moon's spokesman also quoted the Pope as saying that he "strongly" backed the peace process, telling the South Korean leader to "march ahead without stopping", adding: "Do not be afraid".

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.

The meeting between Moon and Pope Francis was held behind closed doors with only South Korean priest Han Hyun-taek serving as the interpreter.

Moon on Wednesday met with Italian leaders and attended an evening Mass for peace in St. Peter's Basilica with Parolin, the Vatican's top diplomat.

Pyongyang's constitution purportedly ensures "freedom of religion" as long as it does not undermine the state, although no openly religious activities are allowed.

Francis said it represented "his desire for peace" on the Korean peninsula.

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Francis, however, has taken a more open approach in the Holy See's diplomacy. The North is estimated to have around 2,500 Catholics, compared to more than 5.5 million in South Korea. "And for me it is an honour to meet you", Moon replied. I bear that mind every time I encounter difficulties.

Following an unusually provocative run of weapons tests previous year, Kim has been on a diplomatic offensive, which included three summits with Moon and the one with Trump.

Pope Francis has been emphatic about the right and wrong ways to address global conflict.

"I wish you well in your work for peace", the Pope replied.

In 2014, the pope also hosted American and Cuban negotiators in Rome to seek a diplomatic accord after an 18-month impasse.

Moon said wonderful changes were already happening on the peninsula.

The president asked the Vatican to continue praying for peace on the peninsula. "We will surely overcome our division", he said.

In his homily during the Mass in St Peter's Basilica, Cardinal Parolin said that the peace offered by Christ to his disciples after his Resurrection was the same peace offered to the hearts of men and women "who search for true life and full joy".

The Vatican secretary of state said that although peace is built daily through a serious commitment to justice and solidarity as well as the protection of human rights and dignity, it is first and foremost a gift from God that "is not an abstract and distant idea but an experience lived concretely in the daily journey of life". A Catholic himself, Moon spoke at the end of the mass, saying prayers recited there would turn into reality. He held an unprecedented summit with a U.S. president when he met Donald Trump in Singapore in June, with the two leaders promising to work toward denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. I am so honored to do this.

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