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Pope awaiting invitation to visit North Korea

National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug (left) poses for a photo with Cardinal Pietro Parolin at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Friday. (National Assembly)
National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug (left) poses for a photo with Cardinal Pietro Parolin at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Friday. (National Assembly)
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s second in command, said Pope Francis wants to visit North Korea and is waiting for an official invitation. He conveyed the message during talks with National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug, who visited last week, officials said Monday.

Park met with Parolin at the Vatican Apostolic Palace on Friday, the last day of his 10-day visit to Greece and Italy, according to the statement released by the National Assembly.

During the talks with Parolin, Park expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis for “his efforts to resolve the Korean Peninsula issue” and asked Parolin to “contribute to the peace settlement of the two Koreas,” which have been divided for more than 70 years.

In response, the cardinal said, “We are also very interested because the pope often talks about peace on the Korean Peninsula,” referring to the fact that inter-Korean dialogue was cut off.

Park said, “It is true that dialogue has been cut off, but we agreed to resolve the issue of the Korean Peninsula diplomatically through dialogue at the Korea-US summit. If North Korea comes to the dialogue table, we will be able to discuss vaccine supply.”

“A few years ago, (the Vatican) contacted North Korea for financial aid during the flood,” Parolin said.

“The pope pointed out that there is a need to deepen contacts with the North. We are well aware of the difficulties of North Korea and we want to help. The Vatican is trying to maintain a channel with North Korea,” Parolin added, stressing the Vatican’s interest in the country.

In October 2018 at a meeting with Pope Francis, President Moon Jae-in conveyed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s intention to invite the pope for a visit. Kim had said Pope Francis would be “very welcome” to visit Pyongyang, according to Cheong Wa Dae. The pope replied in Italian that he would go if he received an official invitation.

“It is clear that the pope wants to go to North Korea. I hope (the meeting) will take place as President Moon said,” Parolin said. “I hope the invitation from North Korea will come.”

Regarding the pope’s health, the cardinal said he was showing “good signs of recovery” from colon stenosis surgery, adding that he was likely to remain hospitalized a little longer than expected.

Park returned home via Incheon Airport on Monday. He spoke with politicians in both countries about ways to bolster cooperation on travel, smart city development, energy and infrastructure.


By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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