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10/08/2018 North Korea (International Christian Concern) – North Korea has officially invited Pope Francis to visit the country. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is extending the invitation through the South Korean leader Moon Jae-in who will be in Europe this week on a trip.

If Pope Francis agrees to visit North Korea, he will be the first pope to ever do so.

The late Pope, John Paul II was the only other pope ever invited to North Korea. An invitation that he turned down due to the fact that at the time Catholic priest were not accepted in North Korea. The Vatican told the president at the time, Kim Dae-Jung that he would only go if they began to accept Catholic priest. In the end, John Paul II never made it to North Korea.

There are two Catholic churches in North Korea, the Jangchung Catholic Church, located in Pyongyang and a state-run Korean Catholic association, but neither of the churches have any ties to the Vatican.

The Korean Communications Agency estimates that there are around 3,000 Catholics in the country. Whereas the United Nations places the number closer to 800.

North Korea is known for violating human rights issues and limited religious rights. Arnold Fang, a researcher from Amnesty International commented that “In reality [North Korea] had not freedom of religion.”