"Christians in North Korea experience torture and unimaginable hardships"
Pope Francis called the recent meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un "a good example of the culture of the encounter."
"I greet the protagonists and pray that such a significant gesture might constitute another step along the path of peace."
The meeting between the two leaders lowers international tension and raises the possibility of a progressive opening of North Korea to the world. If this were to happen, it could mean the end of religious persecution against Christian communities in the country.
Aid to the Church in Need categorized this meeting as positive, but at the same time is cautious. They estimate that between 100,000 and 400,000 Christians live in hiding in North Korea.
Spokesperson, Aid to the Church in Need (Italy)
"Certainly, this meeting is a positive event. At the same time, we must logically be prudent. North Korea, as you see behind me, is marked in black. It is one of the countries in the world that persecutes and denies religious freedom the most."
The Holy See and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations. In fact, the last time a Vatican delegation traveled to the country was in 2002, when they were able to celebrate Mass. Since then, the situation has not improved for Christians.
Those who have managed to escape from the country and now live in South Korea, explained to Aid to the Church in Need that, "the places of worship controlled by the State only exist so that foreign visitors can get a positive impression of religious freedom."
Spokesman, Aid to the Church in Need (Italy)
"We know that there are many forced labor camps where Christian detainees are tortured and suffer unimaginable hardships. "The community in South Korea is very divided. Obviously, there are some who are skeptical. We had the chance to talk to people there and many imagine this meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un is a 'make-up operation' to cleanse North Korea's image."
Aid to the Church in Need says that, perhaps, one day the Vatican could intervene in North Korea in the same way John Paul II did in Cuba, when he asked the government leaders to open themselves up to the world.
There are small gestures that offer hope. These include Kim Jong-un's invitation for the pope to visit North Korea, sent through the South Korean president. It's an offer that Pope Francis could accept, especially with his location during his possible trip to Japan in November.