01:04 GMT +313 December 2019
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    Will Pope Meet Kim Jong-un in DMZ After Japan Pilgrimage?

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    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un invited the pontiff to visit his country, which allegedly has a bad record of persecuting Christians, last year. While the Pope expressed willingness, no such plans were confirmed. Speculation about a possible trip emerged amid his tour of Japan, as it was reported that he has received an invitation from South Korea.

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in has asked Pope Francis to visit the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas and meet DPRK leader Kim Jong-un after his trip to Japan, which finishes on 26 November, the newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

    According to the outlet, this request from Moon’s office was delivered in July through Apostolic Nuncio to South Korean and Mongolia (which is a Vatican alternative for the diplomatic term “ambassador”) Archbishop Alfred Xuereb.

    But will the meeting actually take place? The South Korean leader is said to have repeatedly asked the pontiff to meet with Kim. For example, Moon, who is Catholic, personally relayed Kim Jong-un’s invitation for an unprecedented visit last year during a personal audience with Pope Francis.

    “The pope expressed his willingness. We have to wait for it [the invitation] to be formalised”, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, stated then.

    However, no plans have been confirmed that the pontiff is going to meet the leader of North Korea, where Christians are allegedly severely persecuted. At the same time, such a visit is usually confirmed in advance, as details should be agreed upon two to three months in advance. However, as the South Korean newspaper points out, Pope Francis is in Japan now, not far from the Korean Peninsula, so, if he wishes to do so, he could change his itinerary and drop by the DMZ.

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    Tags:
    Christianity, Catholics, Japan, Pope Francis, Kim Jong-un, North Korea, South Korea
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