SEOUL, South Korea — Kim Jong-un, the chief of North Korea, which has been condemned as one of many worst suppressors of non secular freedom on the planet, has invited Pope Francis to go to his nation, South Korea’s authorities stated Tuesday.
The invitation can be relayed by South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, a Roman Catholic, when he visits the Vatican for 2 days subsequent week to hunt the pope’s assist in easing tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula, stated Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman of Mr. Moon.
Mr. Moon met with Mr. Kim in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, final month.
“If the pope visits Pyongyang, we’ll give him a rousing welcome,” Mr. Kim advised Mr. Moon, in line with Mr. Moon’s spokesman.
There was no instant remark from the Vatican on whether or not Francis would settle for the invitation, however it’s thought-about extremely unlikely.
No pontiff has ever visited North Korea, whose totalitarian authorities cracks down on spiritual actions, as an alternative selling a persona cult round Mr. Kim and his father and grandfather, who dominated the nation as godlike figures.
Unbelievable as such a go to could sound, this isn’t the primary time North Korea has tried to ask a pope.
In 1991, because the Soviet bloc started disintegrating, North Korea campaigned to ask Pope John Paul II to Pyongyang to assist ease its deepening diplomatic isolation, in line with a memoir by Thae Yong-ho, a North Korean diplomat who defected to South Korea in 2016.
The federal government even discovered an older lady who nonetheless held on to her Catholic beliefs from the times earlier than the Communists took over on the finish of World Warfare II. The girl, who nonetheless practiced her religion in secret, was taken to the Vatican to satisfy the pope, Mr. Thae stated.
However the North finally deserted its marketing campaign for concern that such a go to may fan spiritual zeal within the hermit nation, he added.
Francis has proven curiosity in serving to construct a long-lasting peace on the peninsula.
When he visited South Korea in 2014, Francis stated he got here right here “considering of peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.” North Korea fired three short-range rockets off its east coast shortly earlier than the pope’s arrival. After the pope landed, it fired two extra rockets.
Nonetheless, Francis referred to as for forgiveness and renewed dialogue on the divided peninsula and for extra humanitarian help for North Korea.
“Peter asks the Lord: ‘If my brother sins towards me, how usually should I forgive him? As many as seven instances?’ To which the Lord replies: ‘Not seven instances, I inform you, however 70 instances seven,’” the pope stated in reference to a long time of hostilities and distrust which have divided Korea. “Except we’re ready to do that, how can we truthfully pray for peace and reconciliation?”
Such a message normally doesn’t go down very effectively with conservative South Koreans, together with right-wing Protestants who’re a number of the most vocal opponents of the Communist authorities in Pyongyang. These Protestant activists have burned Mr. Kim in effigy throughout out of doors rallies and launched massive balloons that unfold anti-Kim leaflets over the North.
However Francis’ enchantment has discovered a strong supporter in Mr. Moon, who has devoted his diplomacy to bettering relations with the North and serving to resolve the disaster over the North’s nuclear weapons growth.
Mr. Moon hopes that Francis may settle for Mr. Kim’s invitation in a landmark second for relieving tensions on the peninsula. A go to would additionally sign a willingness by Mr. Kim to open his nation.
However ought to the pope settle for the provide, he would wade into a rustic extensively accused of torturing and even executing the devoted.
“The North Korean authorities’s strategy towards faith and perception is among the many most hostile and repressive on the planet,” america Fee on Worldwide Spiritual Freedom stated in its annual report this yr. “Freedom of faith or perception doesn’t exist in North Korea. The regime exerts absolute affect over the handful of state-controlled homes of worship permitted to exist, making a facade of non secular life in North Korea.”
In 2014, the United Nations’ fee of inquiry on human rights in North Korea stated Mr. Kim’s authorities thought-about the unfold of Christianity “a very severe risk because it ideologically challenges the official persona cult.”
Jason Horowitz contributed reporting from Rome.