Pope Francis is praising the decision of North and South Korea to compete alongside each other at the Winter Olympics, saying it shows that conflicts can be resolved peacefully through dialogue and mutual respect.

Francis sent a special greeting and blessing to athletes and organizers of the Pyeongchang Olympics at the end of his weekly Wednesday general audience. He says the traditional Olympic truce "takes on special importance this year" with the decision by the two Koreas, which will compete together in women's hockey and march together at the opening ceremony.

He says the move shows that sports can promote peace.

Francis has frequently warned about the threat posed by the nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula, and has demanded complete nuclear disarmament. He said the Holy See would support any initiative that favors peace and encounter among peoples.