Francis has already signed a deal with neighboring China.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wants Pope Francis to visit his country. The same has been communicated to the Vatican via President Moon Jae-in of South Korea during the September summit of North and South Korea. President Moon Jae-in will extend the North Korean invitation to the pope when the two meet during the third week of October during President Moon Jae-in’s European trip. The South Korean President will do a Vatican touchdown spanning two days, October 17 and October 18.

Kim has engaged in intense diplomacy during recent months in what is being interpreted as an effort to use his nuclear weapons program towards the easing of military pressure and economic sanctions. Pyongyang and the Vatican do not have any formal diplomatic relations. This official invitation to the leader of the Catholics was the first by any leader of North Korea since 2000.

The constitution of North Korea theoretically ensures religious freedom in as much as it does not weaken state power. In practicality, open religious activities are banned except for state-controlled worship places. This was not the first time Pyongyang has extended an invite to a pope. The same was done in 2000 to the pontiff of that time, Pope John Paul II. The invitation dispatched right after a meeting between the two Koreas came to naught. The Vatican said at that time the pope can visit only if North Korea accepts Catholic priests.

The Vatican until now did not comment on the invite sent out by North Korea. However, a statement published by the Holy See stated that the pope will receive the South Korean President on October 18, only a day after Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state of the Vatican, is scheduled to celebrate a peace mass in the Korean peninsula. The pontiff understands the geopolitical situation of the two Koreas quite well. After his visit to South Korea in August 2014, he expressed the hope of a united Korea, adding that citizens of both North Korea and South Korea share the same language and are like brothers.

North Korea's overtures come a few weeks after the Holy See signed a historic deal with Mainland China, the closest ally to North Korea. The deal influences the nomination of bishops and was crafted to end tension which has accumulated over decades.

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