Some 450,000 couples marry in mass ceremony

Reuters, Feb 13, 2000

SEOUL, Feb 13, 2000 (Reuters) - About 450,000 couples were married on Sunday in a mass ceremony connected by the Internet and satellite and officiated by Unification Church leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon, church officials said.

About 30,000 of the couples -- some of whom had only just met -- took part in a live ceremony on an overcast Sunday at Chamsil Stadium in Seoul.

"Yes, we've just met here in the stadium for the first time," said Shino Hamashima, 29, of Japan, on the arm of her smiling husband, Nejh Taner, 31, who flew from Turkey.

"I am so happy," she said, shaking with excitement, and due to the chilly winter air.

A church spokesman said the Chamsil Stadium ceremony wedded 10,000 couples while 20,000 married couples rededicated their marriage vows to each other.

They were joined via satellite and the Internet by 420,000 more couples from around the globe, including North Korea, in what was said to be the largest-ever mass wedding, the spokesman said.

At the stadium, Moon and his wife blessed the identically dressed couples with more than 150,000 well-wishers and viewers watching.

"Do you, as mature men and women who are to consummate the ideal of the creation of God, pledge to become an eternal husband and wife?" Moon asked, after sprinkling holy water on couples closest to the podium.

"Yes," the crowd answered. They pledged to never divorce or use violence against family members.

Moon founded the Unification Church in Seoul in 1954 with a theology loosely based on Christianity.

His followers, often referred to disparagingly as "Moonies," say the church's goal is to build a kingdom of heaven on earth and inspire people to follow the ideology of self-sacrifice.

The church, which says it has 4.5 million "full-time" followers worldwide, performed its first mass wedding in 1961 with 33 couples involved.

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