North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has invited Pope Francis to visit the country, South Korea’s presidential office has announced.
The invitation to visit Pyongyang will be delivered by South Korean president Moon Jae-in who will be in the Vatican next week as part of a trip to Europe.
No pope has ever visited North Korea, and North Korea and the Vatican have no formal diplomatic relations.
The invitation is the latest reconciliatory gesture from North Korea.
In 2000, Kim Jong-un’s father – Kim Jong-il – invited Pope John Paul II to visit North Korea after the pope was quoted as saying it would be “a miracle” if he could go there.
The visit never happened. The Vatican insisted at the time that a visit from the pope would only happen if Catholic priests were accepted in North Korea.
North Korea’s constitution promises a “right to faith” and state-controlled churches do exist. However, one human rights activist say this is all largely for show.