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Pope Francis said to hope to visit NK next spring: ruling party chief

South Korea's ruling party chief said Monday that he heard Pope Francis is hoping to visit North Korea next spring as its leader Kim Jong-un has invited him to Pyongyang.

Lee Hae-chan, the chairman of the Democratic Party, made the remark without revealing the source of the information.

"I heard that there is talk that Pope Francis wants to visit North Korea next spring," Lee said at a meeting with senior party officials.

It would be quite meaningful if President Moon Jae-in delivers Kim's invitation and the pope visits North Korea, he added.

Pope Francis (EPA - Yonhap)
Pope Francis (EPA - Yonhap)

During a summit with Moon last month, the North's leader said he would ardently welcome the pope if he visits Pyongyang, according to Moon's spokesman.

Moon plans to deliver the message to the pope when he visits the Vatican from Oct. 17-18 as part of his nine-day trip to Europe.

If realized, it will be the first-ever visit by a pope to North Korea.

South Korea's Catholic church welcomed the invitation and expressed hope that relations between the Vatican and North Korea will improve. (Yonhap)