About 10,000 couples from around the world gathered at Asan, outside Seoul in South Korea, to have their unions blessed by the Rev Sun Myung Moon, leader of the Unification Church (Lee Jin-man/AP)
London Times | Oct 14, 2009
Forty thousand people took marriage vows today in a mass ceremony across four continents, in what may be one the last such spectacle to be presided over by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, ageing leader of the controversial Unification Church.
Some 10,000 brides, dressed in flowing Korean national costume or white wedding dresses, married grooms in black suits, red ties and white scarves, at the Sun Moon University in Asan in South Korea. About the same number of people went through ceremonies in locations as varied as Brazil, Australia and the United States.
Some were couples renewing their vows and there were conflicting reports of how many had been introduced to one another by the church, a controversial practice that brought together complete strangers and contributed towards the “Moonie” church’s reputation for being a brain-washing cult. At least one couple from Japan, Rie Furuta and Tadakuni Sano, told reporters that they had met only three times since their marriage had been arranged by the church.
“I pray that you become good husbands and wives, and men and women who can represent the world’s six billion humankind,” the weeping 89-year old Mr Moon told the newlyweds, as he sprinkled holy water and scattered confetti.
Members of the Unification Church regard the The Rev Moon and his wife as messiahs. In the 1970s and 1980s the church acquired a reputation for brainwashing and separating recruits from their families, but for the past two decades it has projected a more low-key and responsible image.
In the past, The Rev Moon wore white priestly robes, but at today’s ceremony he was dressed in a dark suit and bow tie.
One participant interviewed in Asan by the Associated Press seemed very unhappy to be there. “I came here against my will,” said the weeping young woman who refused to give her name. “I’m too young to get married. I don’t understand why I have to do something like this.”