By Christian Today
Kim Jong-un would like the Pope to visit North Korea, according to a statement from South Korea’s presidential office.
North Korea’s Supreme Leader reportedly extended the invitation during a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month.
The Pope would be ‘enthusiastically’ welcomed in communist North Korea, Kim reportedly said, despite the country being officially atheist.
Kim Eui-kyeom, spokesman for the South Korean president, told reporters today: ‘Chairman Kim said he will “ardently welcome the Pope if he visits Pyongyang”.’
President Moon is expected to pass on the invitation to Pope Francis when he meets him at the Vatican during a trip to Europe next week.
The spokesman said President Moon would visit the Vatican on October 17 and 18 to ‘reaffirm its blessing and support for peace and stability of the Korean peninsula’.
The Vatican and Pyongyang do not currently have formal diplomatic relations and North Korea has a history of persecution towards Christians.
The country is currently ranked number one in Open Doors’ World Watch List of the 50 most dangerous countries to be a Christian – a position it has held for the last 16 years in a row.
According to Open Doors, Christians in the country are faced with torture in prison and hard labour camps for their faith.
North Korea is officially atheist and strictly controls religious activities, with the people instead taught to worship the Kim family. Practising Christianity is perceived as a threat to the state and the leadership.
Despite the fierce oppression, Open Doors puts the number of Christians in North Korea at 300,000.
News of the invitation to Pope Francis came days after US Secretary of State held a ‘very productive’ meeting with Kim in Pyongyang on Sunday.
The meeting signaled a rekindling of negotiations between the two countries towards denuclearization in North Korea after talks stalled over the summer.