Rev. Moon marries thousands in mass wedding

Associated Press/October 9, 2010

Asan, South Korea - Some 7,200 South Korean and foreign couples exchanged or reaffirmed marriage vows Sunday in the Unification Church's second mass wedding this year.

Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a self-proclaimed messiah, offered blessings for the participating couples gathered at Sun Moon University, the school he founded in Asan, south of Seoul.

"I pronounce marriage for the blessed beautiful women and handsome men standing before God, the Lord, the world, and myself," said the 90-year-old Moon.

The couples exchanged vows and held hands to pray during the one-hour spectacle, which was broadcast live online and through satellite television to 194 countries, church officials said.

"We've always grown up, hoping that we could find someone with whom we can then share a family to invite God in and to bring rejoice to God," 22-year-old Italian bride Mika Kanno said as she stood with her British husband Chris Koconey.

The participating couples also threw up their hands and cheered "Hurrah!" in unison.

The church apparently did not schedule the ceremony for the novelty of the 10-10-10 date.

Critics say the mass weddings prove the church brainwashes its followers. Followers routinely let Moon pick their spouses on the belief that he has divine insight and many meet their future spouses for the first time at the mass weddings.

Moon, who says he was 15 when Jesus Christ called upon him to carry out his unfinished work, has courted controversy and criticism since founding the Unification Church in Seoul in 1954.

He held his first mass wedding in the early 1960s, arranging the marriages of 24 couples himself and renewing the vows of 12 married couples.

Over the next two decades, the weddings grew in scale and began to involve followers from Japan, Europe, Africa, Latin America, the U.S. and elsewhere.

A 1982 mass wedding at Madison Square Garden in New York, the first held outside South Korea, drew tens of thousands of participants - and protesters. The ceremonies had been smaller in recent years.

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