Thousands mark Moon death anniversary in S. Korea

AFP
Followers of the Unification Church attend a ceremony to mark the 2nd anniversary of the church's founder Reverend Sun Myung Moon's death at the CheongShim Peace World Center, in Gapyeong, on August 12, 2014
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Gapyeong (South Korea) (AFP) - More than 20,000 followers of the Unification Church gathered in South Korea on Tuesday for the second anniversary of the death of their "messiah" and church founder Sun Myung Moon.

The devotees packed an indoor stadium at the church's global headquarters in Gapyeong, east of the capital Seoul, and listened to Moon's 70-year-old widow Hak Ja Han deliver a eulogy on his life and legacy.

During the ceremony, delegations from South Korea and overseas climbed the stage to lay flowers before a giant backdrop showing a smiling Moon in a black suit and tie.

In the two years since the religious leader died aged 92 of complications from pneumonia, the church he founded appears to have been functioning normally.

The church's signature mass weddings, which "Moonie" critics have pointed to as evidence of cult underpinnings, have continued, with 2,500 couples simultaneously tying the knot at the last ceremony in February.

Revered by his followers but denounced by critics as a charlatan who brainwashed church members, Moon was a deeply divisive figure.

His shadowy business dealings saw him jailed in the United States.

The teachings of the Unification Church are based on the Bible but with new interpretations, and Moon saw his role as completing the unfulfilled mission of Jesus to restore humanity to a state of "sinless" purity.

While it claims a worldwide following of three million, experts suggest the core membership is far smaller.

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