Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The
Myung Moon, leader of the Unification Church, died this morning at the age of
had been hospitalized two weeks with pneumonia. One
of his sons had issued a message to all members to pray for his health.
From the hospital - owned by his church - his body will be transported today to a hall close to the headquarters of the Gapyeong business organization, north-east of Seoul and from tomorrow it will be possible to make visits of condolence. The funeral will be held on September 15, after 13 days of mourning. The remains of the Moon will be buried on nearby Mount Cheonseung.
Moon became famous in the '70s for having presided over mass weddings for thousands of couples whom he barely knew and whom he had matched.
Born in 1920 in the Pyongan, now North Korea, at the age of 15 Moon claimed he was called to be the new Messiah to conclude the work of Jesus Christ, that had remained unfinished after his crucifixion. He was expelled from the Presbyterian Church because of these views. But in 1954, he escaped from North Korea and founded the Unification Church based in Seoul. He and his members (called "Moon") wanted to build a world of peace. For this reason he made couples of different races and cultures marry each other and raising money for this everywhere, calling his members - especially young people - "missionaries".
Very often parents and friends of
members of his sect accused him, in court, of manipulating the minds of young
people, to exploit them for work and to take possession of their wealth.
In 1982, after moving to the U.S., he was sentenced to 11 months for tax evasion. But in the U.S. he built a business empire: the owner of the Washington Times, the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan, and a company distributing sushi to Japanese restaurants in the United States.
In South Korea, his Church owns
hotels in ski resorts, a football team, etc. .. Among
the most controversial aspects of his work was his relationship with the North
Korean Kim dictatorship. Moon,
who always promoted an anti-communist ideology, kept close relations with Kim
Jong-il to whom - they say - he sent roses, ginseng and Rolex watches each year
on his birthday. A
delegation of the Moon was present at the funeral of Korean leader, last
North Korea, the Moon own car companies and hotels.
His relationship with the Catholic and Protestant churches was even more controversial: he and his members claim they have always wanted to "collaborate" to "bring peace to the world," but they have always implemented a radical proselytizing, drawing and "converting" the faithful of other Churches.
In 2001, the rev. Moon has managed to bring in his Church the Catholic Bishop Emmanuel Milingo and marry him to Maria Sung. The bishop then returned for a time to the Vatican, and then returned to the arms of Maria Sung. According to analysts, the "conversion" of Milingo to the Unification Church was part of a larger project aimed at weakening the Catholic Church in Africa, offering a religion similar to Christianity, open to married priests, polygamy, and magic.
In 2003 he provoked a scandal in a
speech in which he justified the Holocaust against the Jews as a punishment for
In 2006, Moon returned to Korea and began distributing the religious, and economic responsibilities of his empire to his 14 children.
According to figures provided by the organization, the Unification Church has three million followers and has sent missionaries to 194 countries. But former members and critics say that there are no more than 100 thousand Moon in the world.