Kim Jong-un Invites Pope Francis to North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea — Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, which has been condemned among the worst suppressors of religious freedom within the earth, has invited Pope Francis to visit his country, South Korea’s government said Tuesday.

The invitation will be relayed by South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, a Roman Catholic, when he visits the Vatican For just two days next week to seek the pope’s help in easing tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula, said Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman of Mr. Moon.

Mr. Moon met with Mr. Kim in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, last month.

“If the pope visits Pyongyang, we will give him a rousing welcome,” Mr. Kim told Mr. Moon, according to Mr. Moon’s spokesman.

There was no immediate comment via the Vatican on whether Francis would likely accept the invitation, nevertheless the item can be considered highly unlikely.

No pontiff has ever visited North Korea, whose totalitarian government cracks down on religious activities, instead promoting a personality cult around Mr. Kim along with his father along with grandfather, who ruled the country as godlike figures.

Improbable as such a visit may sound, This specific can be not once North Korea has tried to invite a pope.

In 1991, as the Soviet bloc began disintegrating, North Korea campaigned to invite Pope John Paul II to Pyongyang to help ease its deepening diplomatic isolation, according to a memoir by Thae Yong-ho, a North Korean diplomat who defected to South Korea in 2016.

The government even found an older woman who still held on to her Catholic beliefs via the days before the Communists took over at the end of World War II. The woman, who still practiced her faith in secret, was taken to the Vatican to meet the pope, Mr. Thae said.

nevertheless the North eventually abandoned its campaign for fear that will such a visit might fan religious zeal within the hermit nation, he added.

Francis has shown interest in helping build a lasting peace on the peninsula.

When he visited South Korea in 2014, Francis said he came here “thinking of peace along with reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.” North Korea fired three short-range rockets off its east coast shortly before the pope’s arrival. After the pope landed, the item fired two more rockets.

Still, Francis called for forgiveness along with renewed dialogue on the peninsula along with for more humanitarian aid for North Korea.

“Peter asks the Lord: ‘If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ To which the Lord replies: ‘Not seven times, I tell you, nevertheless 70 times seven,’” the pope said in reference to decades of hostilities along with mistrust that will have divided Korea. “Unless we are prepared to do This specific, how can we honestly pray for peace along with reconciliation?”

Such a message usually does not go down very well with conservative South Koreans, including right-wing Protestants who are some of the most vocal opponents of the Communist government in Pyongyang. These Protestant activists have burned Mr. Kim in effigy during outdoor rallies along with released large balloons that will spread anti-Kim leaflets over the North.

nevertheless Francis’ appeal has found a powerful supporter in Mr. Moon, who has dedicated his diplomacy to improving relations along with helping resolve the crisis over the North’s nuclear weapons development.

Mr. Moon hopes that will Francis might accept Mr. Kim’s invitation in a landmark moment for easing tensions on the peninsula. A visit would likely also signal a willingness by Mr. Kim to open his country.

nevertheless should the pope accept the offer, he would likely wade into a country widely accused of torturing along with even executing the faithful.

Jason Horowitz contributed reporting via Rome.