Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 10:22 UK

Thousands wed in Korean ceremony


Thousands take part in the mass wedding led by the Rev Moon Sun-Myung

Thousands of couples have tied the knot in a mass global wedding organised by South Korea's controversial Unification Church, its biggest in a decade.

The Reverend Sun Myung Moon married off or renewed the wedding vows of 7,500 to 20,000 couples worldwide, reports said.

Many were gathered in Asan, south of Seoul, while others took part via live links from Sweden, Brazil and the US.

The spectacle comes as Rev Moon is handing over the day-to-day leadership of the church to his children.

Blessing ceremony

The "blessing ceremony" - the church's largest since 1999 - may well be the last on such a grand scale officiated by the 89-year-old Sun Myung Moon, who has presided over mass weddings since the early 1960s.

Rev Sun Myung Moon and his wife, 14 Oct
Sun Myung Moon and his wife celebrate their 50th anniversary this year

Row after row of brides in white veils and grooms in black suits - hailing from South Korea, the US, Japan and Europe - joined married couples who were renewing their vows at the church's Sun Moon University in Asan.

Simultaneous ceremonies also took place by webcast in Norway, Japan, Venezuela, Honduras and across the United States, the AP news agency reported.

Founded in Seoul in the 1950s by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Unificationism has attracted hundreds of thousands of members worldwide.

Unificationists believe that Sun Myung Moon and his wife are the Messiah and 'true parents of all humanity', putting the movement at odds with orthodox Christian churches.

The movement has also been accused of cult-like practices, with its followers dubbed "Moonies".

As Sun Myung Moon approaches his 90th birthday, he has handed over key responsibilities to one of his sons, the 30-year-old Reverend Hyung Jin Moon, who studied theology at Harvard University.

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