In this April 18, 2018, file photo, Pope Francis meets a group of faithful from China at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican. On Sept. 22, 2018, the Vatican announced it had signed a "provisional agreement" with China on the appointment of bishops, a breakthrough on an issue that for decades fueled tensions between the Holy See and Beijing and thwarted efforts toward diplomatic relations. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, file)

Bishop: Possible pope trip to North Korea ‘a gigantic step’

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A South Korean bishop says a visit by Pope Francis to North Korea would mark a “gigantic step” for peace on the peninsula but that there are many issues about religious freedom that must be resolved.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is expected to relay North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation for Francis to visit the atheist country when Moon meets with Francis next week.

The bishop of Daejeon, South Korea, Monsignor Lazarus You Heung-sik, told Vatican reporters Thursday that it would be “beautiful” if Francis could visit but that “some things must change” — a reference to the lack of priests or religious freedom in the North.

But he added: “If the pope goes there he will make a gigantic step, a qualitative step for the Korean peninsula.”