Unification Church Founder Rev. Moon Dies

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The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, died Monday near his home in Gapyeong, northeast of Seoul. He was 92.

Moon had been hospitalized with pneumonia at a church-owned hospital for two weeks before his death. His wife and children were at his bedside, church spokesman Ahn Ho-yeul said.

The funeral will be held Sept. 15 near his home in Cheonseung Mountain, following a 13-day mourning period when followers will be received at the movement's huge campus with its white palace, sports and cultural center.

Moon founded the "Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity" in 1954 in Seoul, based on "new interpretations" of the Bible. He said Jesus called him at age 16 to "complete his work."  During his lifetime, Moon called on members to call him and his wife their "true parents."

Doctrinal Teachings

Among the movement's doctrinal teachings are that Jesus is not God and cannot save people physically. His body was not raised from the dead and he will not return literally. The movement also teaches that the Holy Spirit is female, the doctrine of the Trinity is false and Moon himself is the "visible God."

In 1957, the late reverend published his beliefs in a book titled Divine Principle. On the movement's 40th anniversary in May 1994, he announced the merger of all his holdings in the "Family Federation for World Peace and Unification."

During the 1970s and 1980s, Moon became known for conducting mass weddings to build a multinational movement and promote world peace. He continued the practice for decades, marrying 7,000 couples in South Korea in February 2010.

"International and intercultural marriages are the quickest way to bring about an ideal of world peace," he wrote in his 2009 autobiography. "People should marry across national and cultural boundaries with people from countries they consider to be their enemies so that the world of peace can come that much more quickly."

Financial Empire

The movement's vast financial empire spread from North and South Korea to the United States and Japan. Among its U.S. holdings are the New Yorker Hotel, the Washington Times newspaper, and a seafood distribution company that distributes sushi to restaurants across the United States. 

In South Korea, the church owns a ski resort, hospitals, schools and football teams. It also operates a hotel in Pyongyang and holds joint ownership in a North Korean automaker and peace institute in the capital.

In 2004, Moon invited U.S. lawmakers to a coronation ceremony in which he declared himself humanity's savior, saying his teachings helped Hitler and Stalin be "reborn as new persons."

In 1991, Moon met with North Korea's late dictator Kim II Sung. He also developed ties with several U.S. presidents during the 30 years he lived in the United States. In 1984-85, Moon served a 13-month sentence in federal prison for tax evasion. He had also been imprisoned in North Korea.

In 2008, his youngest son, the Rev. Hyung-jin Moon, replaced him as the movement's top religious director.

The Unification Church claims 3 million followers worldwide, 100,000 in the United States., with missionaries in 194 countries. Moon is survived by his wife and 10 sons and daughters, according to the church.

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