Papal visit to N.Korea ‘ardently welcomed’

2018-10-10 04:03:36 GMT2018-10-10 12:03:36(Beijing Time) Sina English

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has invited Pope Francis to visit, saying he would be "ardently welcomed," South Korea's presidency said Tuesday, adding it would pass on Pyongyang's message to the Vatican.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in will have an audience with the Pope during a visit to the Vatican from October 17 to 18.

"During the meeting with Pope Francis, he [Moon] will relay the message from chairman Kim Jong-un that he would ardently welcome the pope if he visits Pyongyang," Moon's spokesperson, Kim Eui-kyeom, told reporters.

Moon is embarking on a nine-day tour of Europe from October 13 to 21 that will include stops in France, Italy and Denmark on top of the Vatican.

The dovish Moon has pushed rapprochement with Kim, meeting him three times this year. 

During the most recent face-to-face meeting - a visit to Pyongyang last month - Moon was accompanied by South Korean Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong.

During a conversation with the visiting archbishop, Kim urged him to let the Vatican know his intention to build peace, according to Moon's spokesperson. 

The young leader of North Korea has taken a series of reconciliatory gestures since early this year, including a landmark summit with US President Donald Trump in June. 

During last month's summit, Kim also reaffirmed efforts to ease military tension on the flashpoint peninsula.

When Pope Francis visited South Korea in 2014, he held a special mass in Seoul dedicated to reunification of the two Koreas. 

A 2014 survey by Korea Gallup showed 22 percent of South Koreans identify themselves as Buddhist, while nearly 30 percent are Christian.

(Agencies)

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