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Bishop: Possible pope trip to North Korea ‘a gigantic step’

FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2018 file photo, Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. South Korea says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wants Pope Francis to visit North Korea. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A South Korean bishop says a visit by Pope Francis to North Korea would mark a “gigantic step” for peace on the peninsula but that there are many issues about religious freedom that must be resolved.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is expected to relay North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation for Francis to visit the atheist country when Moon meets with Francis next week.

The bishop of Daejeon, South Korea, Monsignor Lazarus You Heung-sik, told Vatican reporters Thursday that it would be “beautiful” if Francis could visit but that “some things must change” — a reference to the lack of priests or religious freedom in the North.

But he added: “If the pope goes there he will make a gigantic step, a qualitative step for the Korean peninsula.”

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