Pope Francis willing to visit North Korea, says South Korean bishop

Pope Francis has again expressed his willingness to visit North Korea as he sympathized with the Korean people long separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, a senior South Korean bishop said.

Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik of Daejeon told Yonhap News Agency on April 26, that the pope made the remarks during a meeting in the Vatican.

The bishop said Pope Francis said he will visit North Korea if relevant preparations are completed.

A papal trip to Pyongyang gained traction in 2018 amid a peace mood created by three inter-Korean summits and a historic meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then US President Donald Trump.

In October of that year, South Korean President Moon Jae-in paid a courtesy call to the pope and delivered a verbal invitation from Kim.

The pope said at the time he was willing to visit the North if Pyongyang sends him an official invitation.

No further progress, however, has been made since a no-deal summit in Hanoi in 2019 between Kim and Trump.

According to the non-denominational Open Doors there are 300,000 Christians in North Korea and they face extreme levels of persecution from the communist state.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis has reportedly expressed appreciation for a Daejeon diocese-initiated vaccine sharing campaign by which US$460,000 has been donated to the Holy See.

Pope Francis visited South Korea in 2014.

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