Pope Francis has indicated he is willing to travel to North Korea when he is ready, citing the need for peace on the Korean Peninsula after decades of national division.
South Korean Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, of Daejeon, told Yonhap that the pope signaled his willingness to visit the Kim Jong Un regime during a meeting at the Vatican.
The pontiff reportedly said that people of a common ethnicity have lived as a separate family for 70 years. The pope said he sympathized with their pain, the South Korean news agency reported Monday.
Francis has previously mentioned an interest in visiting North Korea. In 2018, the pope told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he could travel to the isolated regime, according to Korean press reports.
The pope never visited North Korea that year, but in December 2018, Marco Impagliazzo, the president of the Community of Sant’Egidio, an organization of lay Catholics in Rome, visited North Korea for humanitarian cooperation.
The Italian group met with Kim Yong Nam, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly.
Moon, who left office in March, has pressed the United States to resume diplomacy with the North under the Biden administration.
Moon may have mentioned to President Joe Biden their identity as Roman Catholics in their first phone call after Biden’s inauguration, according to Moon’s former diplomatic envoy to Rome, Ambassador Lee Baek-man, in February.
“At the G20 (Group of 20) summit to be held in Rome in October this year, there may be an important discussion about the ‘peace process on the Korean Peninsula,'” Lee told the South Korean publication Firenze’s Table.
South Korea’s Catholic church is working with the Vatican on Covid-19 aid in low-income countries, Yonhap reported on Monday.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Daejeon has donated $460,000 to go towards Covid-19 vaccines in the developing world after a request from the Holy See, according to the report.