Pope Francis indicates willingness to visit North Korea

Pope Francis indicates willingness to visit North Korea

Pope Francis indicates willingness to visit North Korea

"During a meeting between President Moon Jae-in and Pope Francis held behind closed doors at the Vatican, the pope said he was waiting for an official invitation from Kim Jong-un, adding he could visit the North", chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan said in a media briefing late Thursday (KST).

Moon's office has said during their summit, Kim said the pope would be "enthusiastically" welcomed in North Korea.

The Singapore police have charged two men - one Singaporean, one North Korean - for supplying prohibited luxury items to North Korea, in contravention of United Nations sanctions.

Kim told Moon, a Catholic, of his wish to meet the pontiff during a meeting last month and the South Korean leader announced before his trip to Europe that he would be relaying a message.

Moon wrote when he visited Pyongyang in September for the summit, he was joined by a Korean Catholic bishop to try and improve relations between the church in North and South Korea.

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". Moon's office quoted the pope as telling Moon: 'Do not stop, move forward.

And Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said: "I can confirm that a verbal invitation was made".

The proposed plan to open up the border would also apply to South Korean nationals who have been barred from taking part in such trips, apart from exceptional circumstances, since the Korean War ended in an armistice in 1953.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (left) in talks with Pope Francis (right) during their private. "As a result, I laid the ground for a permanent peace with U.S. President Donald Trump and the North's Kim", Moon was quoted as saying by Yoon.

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.

North Korea's constitution guarantees freedom of religion as long as it does not undermine the state. The North is estimated to have around 2,500 Catholics, compared to more than 5.5 million in South Korea.

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