Pope keen on North visit, says Korean bishop

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Pope keen on North visit, says Korean bishop

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has given the impression that he has a strong willingness to visit North Korea, a senior South Korean bishop said Monday.

Lazarus You Heung-sik, who heads the Daejeon diocese, spoke in an interview with Yonhap News Agency at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, three days after the pope indicated during a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he may visit the North.

In his meeting with the pope, Moon relayed a verbal invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to visit Pyongyang.

“As I was near Pope Francis, he impressed me as having a strong intention to make the visit, and it needs to be well-prepared to make it materialize,” said You, who is widely known as the most knowledgeable figure on Vatican affairs in the South Korean Catholic Church.

Since Sept. 28, You has been staying in the papal residence to take part in a meeting of bishops from around the world, known as a synod.

He was involved in the preparation of a special mass for peace on the Korean Peninsula at the Vatican, presided over by its top diplomat, Pietro Parolin, on Wednesday, as well as the Moon-Pope Francis meeting.

You, who also serves as chief of the committee for justice and peace at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, expected that the preparation for the papal visit will come only after an invitation arrives from the North.

For a papal visit to the North, it is necessary to make a detailed plan and to have thorough consultation among related countries, he said.

“In the case of North Korea, I believe we have no bishops [to discuss with],” he said, “which means we need to have a lot more time and patience to have consultations between the Vatican and Pyongyang.”

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