Pope indicates willingness to visit North Korea

Posted by On 10:15 AM

Pope indicates willingness to visit North Korea

VATICAN CITY (AP) â€" Pope Francis indicated his willingness to visit North Korea during a private audience with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Vatican, Moon's office said Thursday.

The South Korean presidential office said in a statement that Moon "conveyed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's desire for a papal visit to North Korea." A formal invitation directly from North Korea will follow.

The office said Francis responded that "if the invitation comes, I will surely respond to it, and I can possibly go."

Moon's office revealed last week that Kim had indicated his desire for a papal visit during a Korean summit last month.

If it materializes, such a visit would be the first by a pope to the atheist country.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook, right, pose with P   ope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that culminated with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/ANSA via AP)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook, right, pose with Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that culminated with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/ANSA via AP) (AP)

The private audience lasted 35 minutes, and included an exchange of gifts. Moon, who is Catholic, presented the pope with a relief of the face of Jesus Christ by a Korean artist. The president pointed to the wreath of thorns on Jesus' head, telling the pontiff: "This represents the suffering of the Korean people."

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, talks with Pope Francis during their private audience, at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that will culminate with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/Pool Photo via AP)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, talks with Pope Francis during their private audience, at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that will culminate with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

The pope's gifts included a medal engraved with an olive branch, saying it represented "his desire for peace" on the Korean peninsula.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook, right, meet Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that culminated with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/Pool Photo via AP)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook, right, meet Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that culminated with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

During their exchange, Moon told the pope that "you are not only the head of the Catholic Church, but a teacher for humanity." Francis urged Moon to "work for peace."

South Korean President Moon Jae-in meets Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that culminated with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's    expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/Pool Photo via AP)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in meets Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that culminated with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

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

South Korean President Moon Jae-in meets Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican   , Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that culminated with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/Pool Photo via AP)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in meets Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that culminated with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

Moon signed a broad agreement with North Korea's Kim last month meant to reduce military tensions on the peninsula. The South K orean President wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, that he traveled with a Korean Catholic bishop to try to improve relations between the church in the North and South.

RECROP - South Korean President Moon Jae-in walks between two Vatican Swiss Guards as he enters the building ahead of his private audience with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that will culminate with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
RECROP - South Korean President Moon Jae-in walks between two Vatican Swiss Guards as he enters the building ahead of his private audience with Pope Francis , at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that will culminate with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) (AP)

North Korea strictly controls the religious activities of its people, and a similar invitation for then-Pope John Paul II to visit after a 2000 inter-Korean summit never resulted in a meeting.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, center, and his wife Kim Jung-sook, right, get into a car after their private audience with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that will culminate with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, center, and his wife Kim Jung-sook, right, get into a car after their private audience with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that will culminate with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) (AP)

The Vatican insisted at the time that a papal visit would only be possible if Catholic priests were accepted in North Korea.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in's wife Kim Jung-sook, center, walks past two Vatican Swiss Guards ahead of her husband's private audience with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea&#0   39;s president is in Italy for a series of meetings that will culminate with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in's wife Kim Jung-sook, center, walks past two Vatican Swiss Guards ahead of her husband's private audience with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that will culminate with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) (AP)

Francis, however, has taken a more open approach in the Holy See's diplomacy.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in walks between two Vatican Swiss Guards as he enters the building ahead of his private audience with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that will culminate with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in walks between two Vatican Swiss Guards as he enters the building ahead of his private audience with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that will culminate with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from No rth Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) (AP)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook, right, meet Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that culminated with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/Pool Photo via AP)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook, right, meet Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that culminated with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expe cted to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/Pool Photo via AP) (AP)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook, right, listen to Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that culminated with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/ANSA via AP)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook, right, listen to Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. South Korea's president is in Italy for a series of meetings that culminated with an audience with Pope Francis at which he's expected to extend an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit. (Alessandro Di Meo/ANSA via AP) (AP)
Source: Google News North Korea | Netizen 24 North Korea

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