SEOUL, South Korea – The president of the Korean bishops' conference has welcomed President Moon Jae-in's peace initiative, saying it matches the church's views on how peace can be achieved on the peninsula.

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VATICAN CITY – Celebrating a Mass in his native El Salvador, newly created Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez said his first major assignment will be to travel to South Korea for a meeting on how to achieve peace with North Korea.

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VATICAN CITY – Two former Latin American presidents said the world is running out of time to find a solution to the crisis in Venezuela as President Nicolas Maduro aims to consolidate power over the country.

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SEOUL, South Korea – A peace treaty is needed to replace the 64-year truce between North Korea and South Korea, ending a situation where the two countries remain technically at war, speakers at a symposium organized by the South Korean bishops said.

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WASHINGTON – Although the North Korean government is doing everything it can to suppress Christianity, the faith continues to spread, said a defector and missionary who called for prayers and action to increase religious freedom in the country.

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ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM CAIRO – A diplomatic solution must be found to the escalating tension between North Korea and the United States, Pope Francis told journalists.

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VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis and the Vatican are concerned about continuing tensions on the Korean peninsula "on account of the nuclear tests carried out by North Korea," the Vatican spokesman confirmed.

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OXFORD, England - An international report has warned that Christians face worsening mistreatment worldwide and called for "urgent action" by Western governments and church leaders.

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From imprisonment to torture to beheadings, more Christians worldwide live in fear for their lives than at any time in the modern era.

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SEOUL, South Korea - A South Korean cardinal prayed for reunification with the North so that, "through trust and reconciliation, may we become one big family again."

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SEOUL, South Korea - Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, no Catholic priest has resided in the North of this divided peninsula, where autonomous religious activity is effectively forbidden. And no enemy of the communist regime there is more detested or fiercely denounced than the United States.

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SEOUL, South Korea - Pope Francis told Korean Catholics that the reunification of their divided peninsula as well as the harmony of South Korean society depend on the practice of Gospel virtues, especially charity and forgiveness.

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SEOUL, South Korea - Addressing young people from Korea and other Asian countries on their concerns about the future, Pope Francis said the best hope for reunification of the divided Korean peninsula lay in brotherly love and a spirit of forgiveness.

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VATICAN CITY - The world's oldest Catholic bishop, Vietnamese Bishop Antoine Nguyen Van Thien, died May 13 in France two months after his 106th birthday, the Vatican newspaper reported.

The former bishop of Vinh Long, Vietnam, celebrated the 80th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood in February. He was ordained a bishop in 1961 and he attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council in 1962-65.

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VATICAN CITY — The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has opened a window of opportunity for renewed dialogue and possible reunification of the peninsula, said two South Korean bishops.
Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Cheju, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, said the leader's death Dec. 17 "may be the beginning of a turning point for the path of the reunification of the Koreas."
"We hope that the Lord gives the light and strength to the North Korean brothers so that there is a return for a policy focused on dialogue, peace and reconciliation," he said in an interview Dec. 19 with Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency.
Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik of Daejeon, South Korea, told the Rome-based AsiaNews Dec. 19 that "we must focus on dialogue for peace but remain alert."
He said he feared the leader's death would prompt "a period of great confusion."
"Inside the regime, there will (be) a clash between the party and the army. The young age of the heir will not help a smooth transition," said You.
Kim's youngest son, 27-year-old Kim Jong-un, was declared the country's next leader.
Kim, who suffered a stroke in 2008, had ruled the reclusive communist state since 1994, following the death of his father, Kim Il-sung.
You said the new leader lacks the political experience needed to guide the country's relations with the United States, South Korea and China. He expressed concerns that the transition would not be smooth and that "a harsh conflict will break out now between the party, which is in the hands of the heir's uncle, and the military that are answerable to Kim Jong-un."
Too much political wrangling would mean the citizens of North Korea end up paying the price with continued poverty and deaths from hunger, he said.
"We must do our utmost to start sending humanitarian aid again and prevent more deaths from the situation. It is too soon to say what will happen on the Korean Peninsula, but we must pray and work so that peace wins," said You.
"We need to focus on dialogue now that a certain window of opportunity has opened up. We must pray for peace in Korea and the world, and use the Christmas season to remain vigilant but with a hand extended to our brothers in the North." 
Fr. Baptist John Kim Hun-il, executive secretary of the Korean bishops' Subcommittee for Aid to North Korea, expressed hope that Kim's death would not plunge North Korea into further chaos, the Asian Church news agency UCA News reported. He also said that the bishops want to continue the committee's aid program to the North and that there might be the possibility of more openness within the secretive state that could lead to progress in reconciliation efforts.
After Korea was freed from Japanese rule at the end of the Second World War, it was split into the Soviet Union-backed communist North and the U.S.-supported South.
There have been no permanent resident priests or religious in North Korea since the Korean War started in 1950. In 1988, the government created the North Korea Catholic Association and built a Catholic church the following year. Occasionally, when Catholic clergy are allowed to visit the North, they are permitted to celebrate Mass in the church, but no one knows how many Catholics remain in the North.
The North is deeply impoverished and although churches are tightly controlled, Caritas Internationalis — the Vatican-based confederation of national Catholic charities — has been working in the North for more than 15 years. The help began when a series of floods in 1996 led to severe famine that lasted for years.
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