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Bereaved family members carry the coffin of the late
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Date published: 9/16/2012
GAPYEONG, South Korea--Tens of thousands of mourners sobbed, sang, prayed and vowed to cherish the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's teachings Saturday as they said goodbye to their self-proclaimed messiah and "True Father," whose death earlier this month shed light again on his controversial religious and business empire.
Moon, founder of the Unification Church, best known for conducting mass weddings meant to build a harmonious, multicultural world, died Sept. 3 at age 92. He was friend to U.S. presidents and leaders of North Korea. His church has been accused of brainwashing recruits and duping them out of money, but followers believe Moon's claim that he was put on Earth to complete Jesus Christ's works.
"His will is a divine will, different from normal people," said 69-year-old office worker Jeong Hye-ok. "I believe he will establish a foundation to build a heavenly world that unifies peace on earth."
Moon's funeral, which followed a 13-day mourning period, was held in Gapyeong County, northeast of Seoul, where he spent his last days at a church-affiliated hospital. About 35,000 people--men clad in black suits and women in white dresses--attended the funeral.
"He will be in our minds permanently," said Lee Ok-su, a church choir member, her face flushed with emotion. "He is our benevolent yet strict father."
The funeral, which lasted more than two hours, began when men wearing military honor guard-style uniforms carried Moon's coffin into a multipurpose gymnasium.
The Unification Church claims to have 3 million followers around the world, though critics say the figure is no more than 100,000.
After founding the church in 1954 in Seoul, Moon quickly found followers willing to support his conservative, family-oriented value systems and unusual interpretation of the Bible.