Pope Francis praised U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong un for briefly engaging in an unprecedented “culture of encounter” at the truce village of Panmunjom on the peninsula on Sunday.
Speaking toward the end of his traditional Angelus prayer, delivered from a window at the papal residence overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the pope credited the leaders of the United States and North Korea for promoting peace.
“I greet the protagonists with the prayer that this significant gesture constitutes a further step in the path of peace. Not only on that peninsula but in favor of the whole world,” Francis said Sunday, according to news service Crux.
Francis also described the meeting as progress.
“In the last few hours we have witnessed a good example of the culture of encounter in Korea,” the pope said, according to Catholic News Agency.
Trump’s meeting included a brief crossing over into the North Korean side of Panmunjom, marking the first time a U.S. president has stepped into the country; the United States and North Korea are still technically at war with each other, and a peace treaty has yet to be signed.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with the pope in 2018, requesting the Vatican’s support for diplomacy on the peninsula.
South Korea’s Roman Catholic community has been advocating engagement with North Korea.
According to Catholic News Agency, a Mass was held for 20,000 Catholics near the Korean demilitarized zone last week, during an event observing the 69th anniversary of the start of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Senior-level South Korean Catholic bishops have visited the North, and have said the North Koreans have expressed interest in building peace.
“When I visited Pyongyang in 2011, the top officials in North Korea emphasized that the best way to keep the peace on the Korean Peninsula is not to [promote] state-of-the-art weapons or nuclear missiles, but a mutual trust through forgiveness and reconciliation,” said Archbishop Hee-Jung kim last week.
Critics have said North Korea persecutes Christians, but the regime has claimed religious freedom is allowed.