October 09, 2018 7:44 AM
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is formally inviting Pope Francis to visit Pyongyang.
Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in told reporters Tuesday that President Moon will deliver the North Korean leader’s invitation when he visits the pontiff on October 17. During their summit in Pyongyang last month, Kim Jong Un told President Moon of his wish for Pope Francis to visit the North.
Moon’s audience with Pope Francis will occur during a nine-day tour of Europe which includes stops in Denmark, France and Italy.
Kim Jong Un’s invitation to the bishop of Rome is the latest in a series of overtures he has undertaken this year to bring his impoverished nation out of diplomatic isolation, including three summits with President Moon and his historic meeting in June with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore.
Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, invited then-Pope John Paul II to North Korea in 2000, but the meeting never took place. North Korea’s constitution allows for freedom of religion, but worship is tightly restricted to state-sanctioned institutions.