Pope Francis has urged the international community to work for peace on the Korean peninsula, where he said the world is facing a moment of great tension. The pope met with South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in on Thursday at the Vatican.
Moon told Pope Francis that his planned visit to North Korea would help promote peace between Pyongyang and Seoul, which are still technically at war. He added that he hoped the pope could attend a summit with the North in Pyongyang.
Pope Francis said he wanted to participate actively in that process of constructive dialogue.
It is highly unusual for any pontiff to make comments about political situations, but Pope Francis has made an effort recently to speak out on international affairs.
He has also recently used his platform to condemn what he sees as a growing acceptance of the nuclear weapon and an indifference to the plight of refugees by some governments around the world.
North Korea’s quest for nuclear weapons is a concern for many countries in Asia, but has also become an issue of interest to other nations which do not border the peninsula.
As well as being in Asia, the pope is in Africa on his first trip. He will spend four days in Madagascar before flying to Mauritius. After that he heads to the island nation of the Seychelles.
He will return to Rome for a few days before his planned visit to Chile and Peru, which commences at the end of January.
It is unusual for a pope to visit so many different countries in so short a space of time.
During his trip he has said he feels called to take the message of hope and mercy to other countries.
He also says he wants to visit countries with a history of welcome for migrants, in order to show solidarity with those who have been forced from their homes by conflict or persecution.