Pope Francis today, June 30, welcomed news of the meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un and hailed it “as a good example of the culture of encounter.” Addressing pilgrims from many lands in St. Peter’s Square, he extended his greeting to “the protagonists” and prayed that “this significant gesture may constitute a further step on the path to peace, not only in the [Korean] peninsula for the whole world too.”
President Trump, who had been in Japan for the G20 meeting, traveled to Korea and met Kim Jong-Un at the demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel that separates North and South Korea since the end of World War II. At Kim’s invitation, he became the first sitting U.S. president to cross the demarcation line into North Korea. The two leaders first shook hands across that line and then Mr. Trump stepped into North Korea for just one minute, but it was a landmark moment of historic significance.
President Trump met Kim Jong-Un at the demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel that separates North and South Korea.
He and Mr. Kim shook hands as the world’s media captured the scene on camera and live-television. “Good to see you again. I never expected to meet you at this place,” a smiling Mr. Kim told Mr Trump through an interpreter. The U.S. president commented, “Big moment. Tremendous progress.” Then, according to the BBC, a relaxed Mr. Kim crossed into South Korea alongside Mr. Trump and said: “I believe this is an expression of his willingness to eliminate all the unfortunate past and open a new future.”
Afterwards, the two leaders conversed together for one hour in Freedom House on the South Korean side and agreed to set up teams to resume the stalled talks on denuclearization. They were joined for a short time by South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, a Catholic, who has played an active role to help move talks forward. It was the first time the three leaders met together.
It was the third meeting between Trump and Kim in a process that is ultimately aimed at the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the lifting of sanctions imposed by the United States because of North Korea’s nuclear program. The two leaders first met in Singapore on June 12, 2018 and had a second encounter in Hanoi last February (27-28) that failed, it seems, because of the pace of the denuclearization program and the lifting of sanctions.
Pope Francis is well aware of the fragile and often dramatic reality in the Korean peninsula.
Pope Francis is well aware of the fragile and often dramatic reality in the Korean peninsula. He has followed closely the efforts to bring peace between North Korea, a country of 25 million people (with perhaps a few hundred Catholics), and South Korea.
Francis visited South Korea in August 2014, where there is a vibrant Catholic church with some 5.5 million members or just over 10 percent of the South Korean population. At the end of that visit he celebrated a nationally televised Mass in the cathedral of Myeong-dong in Seoul “for the peace and reconciliation” of the Korean people whose country has been divided along the 38th parallel since the end of World War II in 1945 and have suffered conflict and division, also within families, since the Korean War (1950-53), which ended with an armistice truce, not peace.
In his homily at that Mass, he invited everyone to “pray for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter, and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever-greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people. They speak the same language.”
Pope Francis will be near Korea again in the second half of November when he visits Japan. The South Korean President Moon last year brought him a verbal invitation on October 18 from Mr. Kim to visit Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. Vatican sources then told America there is a willingness on the pontiff’s part to go there if the conditions are right, but North Korea has yet to formalize that invitation.