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On eve of meeting pope, S. Korean president speaks of peace hopes

South Korean President Moon Jae-in sits with Italian cardinal Pietro Parolin
South Korean President Moon Jae-in sits with Italian cardinal Pietro Parolin at the end of a special mass for peace in the Korean peninsula in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Max Rossi

South Korea’s president spoke of “heart-warming” moves toward peace on the Korean peninsula on Wednesday, a day before he is expected to relay an invitation to Pope Francis to visit North Korea, Reuters reported.

Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the number two in the Vatican, said a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for President Moon Jae-in and others, including U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Callista Gingrich and hundreds of Korean residents in Rome.

After the “Mass for Peace on Korean Peninsula,” Moon spoke to the congregation of recent positive meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Right now on the Korean peninsula, historic and heart-warming changes are taking place,” said Moon, who is Catholic. “We are blazing the trail of a noble endeavor to secure peace.”

The two Koreas have held three summits this year. Kim also held an unprecedented summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, and promised to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Moon meets the pope at midday on Thursday and is expected to pass on an invitation from Kim.

Kim told Moon of his wish to meet the pontiff during a meeting last month, South Korea’s presidential office said last week. The pope is expected to visit Japan next year.

In his homily at the Mass, Parolin prayed for peace on the Korean peninsula. Peace, he said, had to be built on “a serious commitment to justice and solidarity, upon the promotion of the rights and dignity of the human person.”

The Church estimates that 11 percent of the South’s population are Catholics.

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