Published: Thu, October 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Visiting Vatican, South Korean president says confident of peace

Visiting Vatican, South Korean president says confident of peace

Kim told Moon during their most recent meeting that he wished for the pope to visit North Korea, according to the Blue House, South Korea's presidential office and residence.

The South Korean leader signed a broad agreement with Kim last month created to reduce military tensions on the peninsula. Francis said it represented "his desire for peace" on the Korean peninsula.

Pope Francis is ready to visit North Korea if its leader Kim Jong Un extends a formal invitation, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday after meeting the pontiff.

Moon expressed his gratitude to the pontiff and the Vatican for praying for peace on the divided peninsula half a world away.

The Vatican previously has said a papal trip to North Korea may first require the nation to incorporate changes such as allowing for freedom of religion.

The Vatican has no official diplomatic relations with North Korea.

"I will definitely answer if I get the invitation, and I can go", the president's office quoted the pope as saying. But beyond a handful of state-controlled places of worship, no open religious activity is allowed.

Church officials estimate that North Korea had a Catholic community of about 55,000 just before the 1950-53 Korean War.

Moon said fantastic changes were already happening on the peninsula.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in attended a special mass for peace on the Korean Peninsula celebrated by Vatican's secretary of state Pietro Parolin at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, Oct. 17, 2018, in Rome.

The Vatican's solid support for President Moon's push for peace on the peninsula is seen as a huge plus in his efforts to win more backing from the global community, and specifically European countries. 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). A Catholic himself, Moon spoke at the end of the mass, saying prayers recited there would turn into reality.

In his homily, Parolin prayed for the "gift of peace" on the Korean Peninsula so that "after so many years of tensions and division, the word peace can come out fully". 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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