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Sun Myung Moon, leader of Unification Church, dies at 92

File photo : Family Federation for World Peace and Unification Leader Sun Myung Moon and his wife Han Hwak-ja are during a mass wedding ceremony at the Sun Moon University in Asan City, South Korea.//EPA

File photo : Family Federation for World Peace and Unification Leader Sun Myung Moon and his wife Han Hwak-ja are during a mass wedding ceremony at the Sun Moon University in Asan City, South Korea.//EPA

Washington - The reverend Sun Myung Moon - a self-proclaimed messiah, leader of the Unification Church and conductor of massweddings, often of strangers - died Monday in South Korea, reported The Washington Times, the US newspaper he founded. He was 92.



Moon died from complications of pneumonia at a church-owned hospital in Gapyeong, about 60 kilometres east of Seoul, the Timessaid. The newspaper quoted Unification Church leaders as saying hewas surrounded by family, friends and followers when he passed away.

Moon founded his religious movement, whose followers were often called Moonies, in 1954 in South Korea. His church said it grew to 5million to 7 million members worldwide.

It mixes beliefs from the Bible with Eastern philosophy and whatMoon said were teachings revealed to him by God. Its critics often derided his church as a cult that brainwashed its members, a charge the church denied.

Moon established a business empire as well as a church. Hisventures included media holdings, hospitals, schools, a football team, a ski resort, construction and pharmaceuticals.

Moon was famous for supporting anti-communist causes during the Cold War, promoting international and interfaith peace activities andadvocating a pro-marriage, pro-family culture.

In the 1970s, Moon was one of the world’s best-known South Koreans, and in its heyday, his church was famous for mass weddings so large they had to be held in sports arenas. The marriages were arranged by the church, and many times, the brides and grooms met oneanother for the first time at the ceremonies.

"His vision of sacred marriage, of the formation of ideal families and a world of peace has been taken up by millions of people aroundthe world and a second and third generation of Unificationists," said reverend Joshua Cotter, vice president of the Unification Church USA.

But Moon’s teachings and his church’s practices sparked criticism.He and his wife were banned from travelling in Germany for more than10 years beginning in 1995, for example. The German Interior Ministry said his movement was a sect that recruited youths and used psychological pressure to stop them leaving the organisation. Thecountry’s supreme court overturned the travel ban in 2006.

"I am a controversial person," Moon wrote in his 2009 autobiography, As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen. "The mere mention of my name causes trouble in the world." His church taught that Moon was tasked with finishing what Jesus Christ could not complete, and he declared himself and his secondwife, Hak Ja Han, the "true parents of humankind."

"Am I foolish and insignificant or am I great?" he once asked. "Igave all the individuals in the world cause to kneel down in front ofme."

The Washington Times said Moon was jailed six times in his life,including for tax evasion, and survived numerous beatings and time ina North Korean labour camp.

The church is now led by Moon’s youngest son, Hyung Jin Moon. The Washington Times said after a period of almost two weeks to allowtributes and preparation of the body, a memorial service would beheld September 15 at the Cheongshim Peace World Centre in Gyeonggi province


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