Pope Francis. Pic: AP.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The South Korean Catholic church says it has asked North Korea to send about 10 Catholics to a mass to be celebrated by Pope Francis during his August visit to Seoul.

The Aug. 14-18 visit will be the first visit by a pope to the Korean Peninsula in 25 years.

The Archdiocese of Seoul said Tuesday that it expects North Korea respond by early August to the request to send Catholic believers.

Spokesman Father Hur Young-yup says there were about 50,000 Catholics in North Korea before the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but in practice only sanctioned services are tolerated by the government.

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