SEOUL : North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited Pope Francis to visit, saying that he would be  ''ardently welcomed'', South Korea's presidency said on Tuesday, adding, it would pass on Pyongyang's message to the Vatican.

South Korean President  Moon Jae-in will have an audience with the Pope when he visits the Vatican from October 17 to 18.

During the meeting with  Pope Francis, he  [Moon]  will relay the message from Chairman Kim Jong Un that he would ardently welcome the pope if he visits Pyongyang, Moon's spokesman Kim Eui-Kyeom, told reporters.

Vatican spokesman  Greg Burke declined to comment on a possible  papal trip to Pyongyang, saying on Tuesday ''Let's wait for the invitation to arrive.''

Moon is embarking on a nine day tour of Europe from October 13 to 21 that will include stops in France, Italy and Denmark as well as the Vatican.

The dovish Moon, who will attend a  ''peace Mass''  for the Korean peninsula in Saint Peter's on October 17, has pushed rapprochement with Kim, meeting him three times in the last year.

During the most recent  face-to-face  a visit to the Pyongyang last month  -Moon was accompanied by South Korean Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-jooing.

During a conversation with the visiting Archbishop, Kim urged him to let the Vatican know his intention to build peace, according to Moon's spokesman.

The young leader of the isolated, impoverished nut nuclear-armed North has made series of reconciliatory gestures this year, including a landmark summit with US President Donald trump in June.

During the last summit, Kim also reaffirmed efforts to ease military tension on the flashpoint peninsula but remained vague on measures  on how to dismantle his widely feared atomic arsenal. [AFP]


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