North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has invited Pope Francis to the country via South Korea’s presidential office.

More from BBC News:

The invitation to visit Pyongyang will be delivered by South Korean president Moon Jae-in who will be in the Vatican next week as part of a trip to Europe.

No pope has ever visited North Korea, though the late Pope John Paul II was once invited.

North Korea and the Vatican have no formal diplomatic relations.

”During the meeting with Pope Francis, [Mr Moon] will relay the message from chairman Kim Jong-un that he would ardently welcome the Pope if he visits [the North Korean capital] Pyongyang,” Mr Moon’s spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom, told reporters.

The invitation is the latest reconciliatory gesture from North Korea./I>

Kim held an unprecedented summit with Donald Trump earlier the year and three inter-Korean summits took place soon after. Critics question the open invitation to the Pope, considering the country’s historic stance on the lack of religious freedom and disdain for foreign missionaries, with the incarceration of Korean American evangelist Kenneth Dae, who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in 2013. He was eventually released a year later on health grounds and U.S. intervention.

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