On day two of his official visit to the Vatican, President Moon Jae-in was received by Pope Francis in a private audience.
Pope Francis greeted President Moon by saying that he was glad to meet him. President Moon responded by saying, “I am glad to meet you. I am visiting the Holy See as President, but I am also a Catholic with a Christian name Timoteo.” He added, “I am grateful to you for sharing your valuable time even during the period of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.”
President Moon continued, “I appreciate your thoughtful consideration in approving a special Mass for peace on the Korean Peninsula yesterday.”
President Moon also expressed his gratitude to the Pope for the warm welcome and always praying for peace, harmony and common prosperity on the Korean Peninsula as well as sending blessings and messages of support at every important juncture in the situation surrounding the Peninsula.
President Moon went on to convey Chairman Kim Jong Un’s desire to invite the Pope to North Korea. The President said, “When I visited Pyeongyang last month, I suggested to Chairman Kim that he meet with the Holy Father, who has a great interest in peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, and Chairman Kim instantly expressed his active intent to convey hospitality and enthusiastically welcome the Pope should he visit Pyeongyang.”
Upon hearing that Chairman Kim Jong Un had expressed his gratitude to the Pope for having prayed for inter-Korean peace on the occasions of the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games and inter-Korean summits, Pope Francis replied that he was the one who should feel deeply grateful.
When President Moon asked if Chairman Kim should send a letter of invitation, Pope Francis said that the message President Moon conveyed was sufficient, but it would be good for Chairman Kim to send an official invitation. The Pope added that he would definitely answer if he got the invitation and that he would be available.
Noting that he strongly supported the Korean Government's efforts for the ongoing peace process on the Korean Peninsula, Pope Francis said that President Moon should move forward without pause and should not be afraid.
President Moon said it was his great honor to have a private audience with Pope Francis for whom he has respect as the President of the Republic of Korea and a Catholic. The President's baptismal name is Timothy (Timoteo in Greek).
President Moon showed his gratitude to the Pope for expressing sympathy and giving hope to the socially vulnerable during his visit to Korea in 2014, namely the bereaved families of the Sewol ferry disaster victims; the victims of sexual slavery by the Japanese military, known as comfort women; and people with disabilities residing in the Kkottongnae welfare facility. Pope Francis recalled that some comfort women victims sat in the front row when he celebrated Mass in Korea at that time.
After paying a courtesy call, President Moon introduced his accompanying officials to the Pope and presented a sculpture of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a relief sculpture of Jesus Christ wearing the crown of thorns. Sculptor Choi Jong-tae created both pieces given to the Pope. The President said these art works contained an ardent wish for peace, and Pope Francis thanked him, saying that they were very beautiful. Pope Francis, in return, presented the President an olive branch, a painting of the 17th century St. Peter’s Basilica and books authored by himself. The Pope said he was presenting his books about saintly virtues, the gospel, joy, and environmental protection. Expressing his gratitude, President Moon replied that he had read all of Pope Francis’s books translated into Korean. The President said that he remembered one book containing a letter to atheists, but he was not sure if the translation followed the original text.
In his parting words, the Pope said he would also pray for President Moon and peace. President Moon replied that the Pope was a teacher of not only Catholicism but also humanity and then bid farewell.