The self-styled “messiah,” Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church who believed Jesus Christ appeared to him at age 15 to ask him to complete the work that he left undone, has died at the age of 92.
Moon died of complications from pneumonia at 1:54 a.m. at the CheongShim International Medical Center, a hospital on the church's estate in Gapyeong, about 60 kilometers east of Seoul, Yonhap news agency said.
Moon was first admitted to an intensive-care unit at Seoul St. Mary's Hospital in southern Seoul on Aug. 14 after suffering from a cold and pneumonia and developing complications. He was then moved to the CheongShim center on Aug. 31 following a diagnosis from his doctors that the illness is "irreversible."
“Reverend Moon’s death is more heartbreaking than losing my own parents," said Unification Church member Lee Sang-bo, Euro news reported. "Losing my parents caused me to suffer a huge pain, which was beyond description, but I felt more sorrow when he [Moon] passed away.”
Born in what is now North Korea in 1920 to farming parents who followed the Presbyterian Church, a branch of Protestant Christianity, Moon said he met Jesus Christ on Easter morning in 1935 as he prayed in the hills, Reuters reports.
Moon said Jesus asked him to complete the mission that he had begun 2000 years ago and to take on the work of building God's kingdom on Earth.
But Moon turned Jesus down — twice, according to Mike Breen's biography on Moon, a former journalist for the Washington Times, says Reuters.
"Jesus asked him a third time. 'There is no one else who can do this work.' ... From the comfort of his youthful ideals, he peered over the abyss of the difficulties that would lie ahead and decided. 'I will do it,' he promised."
And it was done. Moon founded the church soon after the Korean War ended in 1953.
Moon built the Unification Church into a worldwide religious movement and a multi-billion dollar business empire.
UK's Telegraph says that the church gained fame and notoriety in the 1970s and 1980s for holding mass weddings of thousands of followers, often from different countries, whom Mr Moon matched up in a bid to build a multicultural religious world. What he called “one world under God.”
Reverend Dr Sun Myung Moon conducting one of his mass weddings called "blessing ceremonies."
This idea is one of many from his own book that fused elements of Christianity and Confucianism titled, "Divine Principle”, published in 1957.
According to literature on the church:
Those who reject Sun Myung Moon will perish, and this is why America has been declining. The “one nation under God” will cease because God’s final purpose is “one world under God” and this can only be established in the lineage of the True Parents, that is Moon and his wife.God Loves Richard Nixon
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Moon arrived in the U.S. from South Korea in 1971 and began courting conservative politicians, including president Richard Nixon.
He gained attention when he came to the defense of President Nixon during the Watergate scandal two years later. Moon even organized “God Loves Richard Nixon” rallies on Capitol Hill and met with the president in the White House.
Screenshot via YouTube
Sun Myung Moon meeting with U.S. President Richard Nixon at the White House.
But there might have been a reason why Moon came to the defense of Nixon: by coming to the defense of Nixon he may have been coming to the defense of himself. He was convicted in May 1982 of failing to report $162,000 in income on his tax returns and served 13 months in the medium- security federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, and a halfway house. Moon claimed that the prosecution was political retribution for his earlier support of the unpopular Nixon.
As he grew older, Moon handed over day-to-day control of the church and businesses to his youngest son, the Rev Hyung-jin Moon. He was named the church's top religious director in April 2008.
Moon’s funeral is scheduled to take place on Sept. 15 at the CheongShim Peace World Center in Gapyeong after a 13-day mourning period, and the burial will be at the Church’s retreat Mount Cheonseung located about an hour outside of South Korea’s capital Seoul, according to the church, Yonhap reported.
"The memorial altar will be set up on Thursday at the center for the public. The believers around the world are supposed to pay tribute to the late leader at their own homes for the three days through Wednesday," a church official said.
Moon is survived by his second wife and 10 of their 13 children.