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Pope open to visiting North Korea

VATICAN (CNS): “Welcome! It is nice to see you,” Pope Francis said, greeting visisting South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, at the entrance to the library of the Apostolic Palace on October 18. 
“I come here as the (South) Korean head of state but I am also Catholic and my baptismal name is Timothy. And for me it is an honour to meet you,” Moon replied.
The pope praised Moon’s efforts to promote peace in the Korean peninsula, telling him, “Move forward without stopping. Do not be afraid,” according to a report from Yonhap, the Korean news agency.
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, had asked Moon to convey an invitation to the pope (Sunday Examiner, October 21) and Yonhap reported Moon’s press secretary as telling reporters that the pope said he would accept “if an (official) invitation arrives and I can go.’”
In a statement released after the meeting, the Vatican said Pope Francis and Moon discussed the Church’s role in promoting “dialogue and reconciliation between Koreans.”
The Vatican statement said, “Strong appreciation was expressed for the common commitment to fostering all useful initiatives to overcome the tensions that still exist in the Korean Peninsula, in order to usher in a new season of peace and development.”
According to the Vatican press pool, Pope Francis and Moon spoke privately for more than 30 minutes, assisted by a translator, Korean Father Han Hyun-taek.
After their meeting, Moon presented the pope with a Korean artist’s sculpture of Christ’s face adorned with a crown of thorns. The thorns, Moon explained, “are the sufferings of the Korean people.”
Among the gifts the pope gave Moon was a split medallion held together by an olive tree which he said was “a symbol of peace in the Korean Peninsula.”
Before departing, Moon thanked the pope again for welcoming him and said, “You are not only the head of the Catholic Church, but also a teacher for humanity.”
“I wish you well in your work for peace,” the pope replied.
The evening before his meeting with the pope, Moon attended a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for Peace in the Korean Peninsula celebrated by Pietro Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state.
Addressing those present after the Mass, Moon said the historic signing of the Pyongyang Joint Declaration between North and South Korea, as well as their commitment to ending the decades-long military confrontation were “blazing the trail for a noble endeavour that will secure the future of peace for the Korean Peninsula and the whole world.”
He said, “Right now, on the Korean Peninsula, historic and heartwarming changes are taking place.” 
He added, “Our prayers today will turn into reality for sure. We will achieve peace and overcome division without fail.”
In his homily during the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Cardinal said that although peace is built daily through a serious commitment to justice and solidarity as well as the protection of human rights and dignity, it is first and foremost a gift from God that “is not an abstract and distant idea but an experience lived concretely in the daily journey of life.”
The peace that God offers, he added, “is not the fruit of a simple compromise” but involves “all the dimensions of life, even the mysterious ones of the cross and the inevitable sufferings of our earthly pilgrimage.”
“Christian faith,” Cardinal Parolin said, “teaches us that ‘peace without the cross is not the peace of Jesus.’”

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