Pope Francis may visit North Korea, according to a statement made by the South Korean presidential office after the meeting of countries president Moon Jae-In, a Catholic, with the Pope. Moon told the Pope that Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean president, is inviting him to visit the country and a formal invitation will be coming soon, according to The Guardian.
Pope Francis apparently said that he might answer positive to the invitation. “If the invitation comes, I will surely respond to it and I can possibly go,” said the Pope according to the South Korean press release. The Vatican statement after the South Korean visit didn’t mention anything regarding an invitation to the North state.
Still, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Kim Jong-Un would invite the Pope to visit. The North Korean dictator has opened in the last year to several meetings and tried to comply with world requests for stopping nuclear research. And Pope Francis is already known for its politics to visit countries that were not entirely Catholic.
Kim’s invitation comes after the one made by two Chinese bishops for Pope Francis to visit China after an agreement between Beijing and Vatican on the appointment of bishops in the communist state.
Pope Francis already announced that he will visit Japan in 2019, a trip that could include China and North Korea.
Kim Jong-Un said last month that he wanted the pope to know his desire of peace. But North Korea is on top of the list of the countries that prosecute Christians for 16 years in a row. The Christian watchdog Open Doors notes that Christians in North Korea are deported to labour camps as political criminals or killed on the spot if they are discovered and meeting for worship is almost impossible. Meanwhile, the churches in Pyongyang are only for propaganda purposes.
Also, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom notes that „freedom of religion or belief does not exist in North Korea” in the 2018 annual report.
All this makes the visit of the pope even more important and significant.