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October 15, 2009

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Thousands married by Moon

FROM South Korea to South America, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon yesterday married tens of thousands of couples in the Unification Church's largest mass wedding in a decade and potentially the last for the 89-year-old leader.

The spectacle comes as Moon, the church's controversial founder moves to hand day-to-day leadership over to three sons and a daughter, though the Rev. Moon Hyung-jin, the 30-year-old tapped to take over religious affairs, insists his father is healthy and remains in charge.

More than 20,000 people gathered at Sun Moon University campus in Asan, south of Seoul, for the "blessing ceremony" while some 20,000 more joined simultaneous ceremonies in the United States, Brazil, Australia and elsewhere.

Some were new couples in unions arranged by the church; others were renewing their wedding vows.

The brides wore wedding dresses or their national dress; the men wore black suits with red ties, with white scarves around their necks.

The global ceremony was meant to mark key anniversaries in the leader's life: his 90th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his marriage to Han Hak-ja, church officials said.

Brides in veils and grooms in white gloves - hailing from South Korea, the US, Japan, Europe and elsewhere - posed for photos in Asan and practiced shouting "Hurrah!" at the wedding rehearsal.

Moon, a self-proclaimed Messiah who says Jesus Christ called upon him to carry out his unfinished work, has courted controversy and criticism since founding the Unification Church in Seoul in 1954.

He held his first mass wedding in the early 1960s and has frequently paired off people from different countries as part of his aim to create a multicultural religious world.


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