Kim Jong-un invites Pope Francis to North Korea

South Korea will deliver the invitation when President Moon Jae-in visits the Vatican this month

Toyin Owoseje
Tuesday 09 October 2018 15:53 BST
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The invitation to Pope Francis is the first by a North Korean leader since 2000
The invitation to Pope Francis is the first by a North Korean leader since 2000 (Reuters)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has invited Pope Francis to visit Pyongyang, saying the religious figure would be “ardently welcomed”.

The gesture from the North is a bid to highlight peace efforts being made on the Korean Peninsula, according to South Korea’s presidential office.

The announcement comes as South Korean President Moon Jae-in prepares for an audience with the Pope during a forthcoming visit to the Vatican next week.

Mr Moon’s spokesman told reporters that when the leader meets with Pope Francis, he will convey Mr Kim’s message.

North Korea, which was ranked the worst place to be a Christian in 2018 by campaign group Open Doors USA, is officially an atheist state.

Religious practices that undermine the state are strictly forbidden and there are no formal diplomatic relations between Pyongyang and the Vatican.

The invitation to the pope is the first by a North Korean leader since 2000. Although that meeting with Pope John Paul II, proposed by Mr Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, never took place.

The pope’s proposed visit is the latest diplomatic gesture from Pyongyang after years of fraught relations with the rest of the world.

Mr Moon’s commitment to peace is said to have paved the way for the April inter-Korean summit and US president Donald Trump’s meeting with Mr Kim in Singapore in June, the first ever between sitting leaders of North Korea and the United States.

Additional reporting from the Associated Press

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