Updated: 08/08/2014 03:54 | By Agence France-Presse

No plans for pope to visit border between two Koreas: Vatican

Pope Francis will call for inter-Korean reconciliation during his trip to South Korea next week but is not expected to travel to the demilitarised zone, the Vatican said on Thursday.


No plans for pope to visit border between two Koreas: Vatican

Pope Francis will call for inter-Korean reconciliation during his trip to South Korea next week but is not expected to travel to the demilitarised zone, the Vatican says - by Alberto Pizzoli

"I don't think such a plan is being considered. I don't expect it will happen, though the pope is always capable of surprises," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said during a press conference ahead of the August 13 to 19 trip.

Vatican watchers had speculated that the pope may make an unscheduled detour to pray at the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas -- in an echo of his impromptu stop at Israel's separation wall during a trip to Bethlehem earlier this year.

Lombardi also confirmed that North Korea has declined to send Catholic believers to a mass celebrated by Francis in Seoul, but said the invitation from the South Korean Church was still open.

The pope will meet relatives of the victims of the Sewol ferry, which sank in April with the loss of some 300 lives -- most of them children -- as well as Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops during World War II.

He will also visit a garden "dedicated to unborn children," in a gesture against abortion, Lombardi said.

For the first time on a foreign trip, the 77-year-old Argentinian will speak in public on four occasions in English, rather than Italian or Spanish.

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