Vatican City, Oct 11, 2018 / 13:00 pm
There must be “some sort of religious freedom” in North Korea before a papal visit to Pyongyang, a South Korean bishop said Thursday.
Bishop Yoo Heung Sik of Daejeon, who has made multiple trips to North Korea on behalf of the South Korean Bishops Conference, originally welcomed the news that South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and Chairman Kim Jong Un had discussed inviting Pope Francis to visit the DPRK during their meeting in late-September.
“It would be a giant step forward for peace on the Korean peninsula,” Bishop Yoo told reporters at an Oct. 11 Vatican press conference.
The bishop cautioned that “in order for him [Pope Francis] to go there, some things in North Korea should change.”
“For example, there are no priests in North Korea,” he continued.
Pyongyang was once referred to as the “Jerusalem of the East” and was considered a center of Christianity in Northeast Asia.
Just before the Korean War broke in 1950, most of the priests in North Korea were captured, killed, or disappeared, according to the Korean Bishops Conference. The beatification process has begun for 40 monks and sisters of Tokwon Benedictine Abbey who were martyred by the Communists.
In 1988, the “Korean Catholic Association” created by the Communist government registered 800 members. This association is not recognized by the Vatican, but is one of three state-sponsored churches that operate in North Korea under strict supervision of the Communist authorities.