Pope Francis sent a video message Saturday to the leaders of South and North Korea expressing his hope for a future of peace and unity for the peninsula on the anniversary of the inter-Korean summit.
“I pray that this anniversary of the Panmunjom Declaration may bring about a new era of peace for all Koreans,” Pope Francis said in his video message released April 27.
“May this celebration offer hope to all that a future based on unity, dialogue and fraternal solidarity is indeed possible,” he said.
With the Panmunjun Declaration -- a peace agreement signed by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In on April 27, 2018 -- the two leaders established a common goal of complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
The first Inter-Korean Summit set off a months of diplomatic engagement with North Korea that led to the historic meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June and a second meeting in Vietnam in Feb. 27-28.
Pope Francis’ message to the leaders of the Korean peninsula comes one day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un concluded meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok.
North Korean media reported that Kim told Putin that he believed the U.S. acted in “bad faith” in sanctions negotiations during the recent Vietnam summit.
"Kim Jong Un said that the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the region is now at a standstill, and has reached a critical point where it may return to its original state, as the US took a unilateral attitude in bad faith at the recent second DPRK-US summit talks," North Korean state-run KCNA news reported April 26.
Despite the current diplomatic difficulties, Pope Francis said that peace is still possible.
“Through patient and persistent efforts, the pursuit of harmony and concord can overcome division and confrontation,” Francis said.
Pope Francis has been an active supporter of diplomatic efforts to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula.
A “Mass for Peace” on the Korean peninsula celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica in October by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin with South Korean President Moon and his wife in attendance.
Pope Francis prayed for a strengthening of “the bonds of fraternity uniting the Korean peninsula” during his most recent Christmas blessing. The pope prayed that the Korean leaders may be able to reach solutions “capable of ensuring the development and well-being of all.”
The 2018 Panmunjun Declaration included a commitment to increased exchanges, visits, and cooperation between the two Koreas to promote a sense of unity, including the reunion of families separated during the Korean War.
The Inter-Korean Summit one year ago marked the first time that a North Korean leader crossed the military demarcation line within the Demilitarized Zone that has divided the Korean peninsula since 1953.