On eve of meeting pope, South Korean president speaks of peace hopes
By Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - South Korea's president spoke of 'heart-warming' moves towards peace on the Korean peninsula on Wednesday, a day before he is expected to relay an invitation to Pope Francis to visit North Korea.
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - South Korea's president spoke of "heart-warming" moves towards peace on the Korean peninsula on Wednesday, a day before he is expected to relay an invitation to Pope Francis to visit North Korea.
Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the number two in the Vatican, said a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for President Moon Jae-in and others, including U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Callista Gingrich and hundreds of Korean residents in Rome.
After the "Mass for Peace on Korean Peninsula," Moon spoke to the congregation of recent positive meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
"Right now on the Korean peninsula, historic and heart-warming changes are taking place," said Moon, who is Catholic. "We are blazing the trail of a noble endeavour to secure peace."
The two Koreas have held three summits this year. Kim also held an unprecedented summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, and promised to work toward denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Moon meets the pope at midday on Thursday and is expected to pass on an invitation from Kim.
Kim told Moon of his wish to meet the pontiff during a meeting last month, South Korea's presidential office said last week. [L4N1WP2AI] The pope is expected to visit Japan next year.
In his homily at the Mass, Parolin prayed for peace on the Korean peninsula. Peace, he said, had to be built on "a serious commitment to justice and solidarity, upon the promotion of the rights and dignity of the human person."
North Korea's constitution guarantees freedom of religion as long as it does not undermine the state. But beyond a handful of state-controlled places of worship, no open religious activity is allowed.
North Korea, which Church officials estimated had a Catholic community of about 55,000 just before the 1950-53 Korean War, does not allow priests to be permanently stationed there.
Information about how many Catholics are still in North Korea is scarce. Religious agencies have said they number from the few hundreds to about 4,000.
The Church estimates that 11 percent of the South's population are Catholics.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by John Stonestreet)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.