Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, has been described as one of the worst suppressors of religious freedom in the world. Now, he has extended an invite to Pope Francis to visit his country, South Korea’s government said Tuesday.
The invitation will be relayed by South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, a Roman Catholic, when he visits the Vatican for two days next week to seek the pope’s help in easing tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula, said Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman of Mr. Moon.
Mr. Moon met with Mr. Kim in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, last month.
“If the pope visits Pyongyang, we will give him a rousing welcome,” Mr. Kim told Mr. Moon, according to Mr. Moon’s spokesman.
There was no immediate comment from the Vatican on whether Francis would accept the invitation, but it is considered highly unlikely.
In similar news, a human rights activist has criticized North Korea’s invitation for the Pope to visit Pyongyang as an “impure manoeuvre” designed to fool the world into believing that the regime is becoming more open to religious freedoms.
“There are no religious freedoms in North Korea and the regime does not permit worship of anything other than the Kim family”, said Song Young-chae, a member of the Seoul-based Worldwide Coalition to Stop Genocide in North Korea.
“The intention behind this impure manoeuvre is clearly to try to convince the rest of the world that they are changing, that they are improving their human rights record and that they can be trusted”, he told The Telegraph. “Mr Kim wants a public meeting with the Pope for propaganda reasons”.