At Vatican, South Korean leader says he’s certain of peace

North Korea slams US for 'evil' sanctions push

Pope Francis on Thursday received an invitation to visit North Korea and the pontiff indicated he would consider making what would be a landmark trip to a nation known for severe restrictions on religious practice, according to South Korean officials.

Mr Moon "conveyed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's desire for a papal visit to North Korea", the South Korean presidential office said in a statement.

Pope Francis expressed his willingness Thursday to visit North Korea if officially invited, also saying he will "certainly" respond to such an invitation from the communist state.

The Vatican insisted at the time that a papal visit would only be possible if Catholic priests were accepted in North Korea.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, walks past South Korean President Moon Jae-in as he arrives to celebrate a Mass for peace for the Korean peninsula in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 17.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in attended a special mass for peace on the Korean Peninsula celebrated by Vatican's secretary of state Pietro Parolin at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, Oct. 17, 2018, in Rome.

"Move forward without stopping".

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It spoke only of "the promotion of dialogue and reconciliation between Koreans" and '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'.

Mr Moon, who is Catholic, presented the pope with a relief of the face of Jesus Christ created by a Korean artist. The thorns, Moon explained, "are the sufferings of the Korean people".

"In recent months, the pope's prayer and blessing have given the Korean people great encouragement and hope on the path to peace", Moon said.

"Right now, on the Korean Peninsula, historic and heartwarming changes are taking place", he said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Italian President Sergio Mattarella held a meeting Wednesday to discuss ways to further improve the countries' bilateral ties and expand their cooperation in dealing with various regional and global issues.

Under the terms of the Korean War armistice, the US-led United Nations Command (UNC), which fought the war on the South's behalf, administers the southern half of the DMZ.

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