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Moonie Cult Leader Dies at 92

One of the world's best known cult leaders, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who is revered as a  messiah within his Unification Church, died yesterday in South Korea at the age of 92.

The Religion News Service (RNS) is reporting that Moon had been hospitalized since August 7 and died on September 3 of complications from pneumonia.

Moon was born in 1920 into desperate poverty in what is now known as North Korea. Five of his siblings starved to death. He grew up to become an avowed enemy of communism and claimed to have received revelations from Jesus, Confucious, Buddha, Lao Tzu and Satan. Believing himself to have a mandate to restore a fallen world, he founded the Unification Church in 1954 and was most famous for holding group weddings in which sometimes thousands of couples would be married at the same time.

“From the time I was eight I was well-known as a champion matchmaker,” Moon wrote in his biography, entitled, As a Peace-loving Global Citizen. “I had only to see photos of a prospective bride and groom and I could tell everything.”

Moon's teachings included a belief that Jesus died without fathering children, who would have escaped the stain of original sin, and that Christ chose him to complete his mission on earth by uniting humankind into a single sinless family. Unificationists called Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han, the “True Parents” of this so-called spiritually pure lineage.

Moon came to the U.S. in the 1970's where he held "Day of Hope" crusades and managed to amass as many as 30,000 followers - known as "Moonies" -  in his heyday. However, his cult-like tactics came under fire from critics who faulted him for deceiving converts and brainwashing his members, forcing many of them into "mobile fundraising teams" who sold candy and flowers. Others were made to labor for the church's many businesses.

He was also well-known for his odd prophecies. For instance, in 2004, at a Capitol Hill reception which was attended by about a dozen Congressmen, he declared himself "humanity's savior, messiah, returning Lord," and claimed to have communed with Hitler and Stalin. The lawmakers later said they were "duped" into attending the reception.

Moon was upset that his church was never accepted by American Christians and he was said to be embittered by a decision from the National Council of Churches refusing to admit the Unification Church as a member.

However, even as membership in his church gradually declined to about 100,000 worldwide, he lived well on a 22-acre estate in Tarrytown, NY.

Moon's children are expected to take over the cult, but in spite of this father's insistence on creating happy families, his own offspring are said to be fighting bitterly for control of his empire. Some have even left the Unification Church. With Moon's death, the fighting is expected to intensify.

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