Archbishop of Gwangju says Pope likely to visit N. Korea if formally invited


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Archbishop of Gwangju Kim Hee-joong said Friday that a visit by Pope Francis to North Korea was still a possibility when and if the North’s leader Kim Jong-un sends the Pope a formal invitation.

In a press conference held in the southwestern city of Gwangju earlier in the day, the president of the Korean Catholic Bishops’ Conference sounded positive on the prospect of the Pope’s travel to the reclusive nation.

Archbishop of Gwangju Kim Hee-joong talks during a press conference held in Gwangju, South Jeolla Province, on Dec. 28, 2018. (Yonhap)

“U.S. media reported that Pope Francis’ schedule next year doesn’t include a trip to North Korea, but we never know … If he wants, he can go anytime. (The trip) isn’t necessarily related to his schedule for next year,” he said.

“I think Pope’s visit will be a good chance for Chairman Kim Jong-un … It could encourage (Kim) to give up on nukes,” he said.

“If North Korea brings up denuclearization issues during Pope’s visit there, he could even play an arbitrator’s role.”

Adding that the Vatican prefers quiet diplomacy, Archbishop Hyginus said he hoped the Vatican proceed with the visit in a quiet manner.

During the conference, he also revealed that he had sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, pleading for more generosity towards the North.

“Last week, I, as chairman of the Korean Conference of Religions for Peace, sent him a letter, asking him to take into consideration North Korea’s efforts on denuclearization and for relief of economic sanctions,” he said.

Separately from the North Korean issues, he hoped South Korea becomes more open and generous to the under-privileged in the New Year. (Yonhap)


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