Thousands exchange marriage vows before godman

Moon, 89, known among his followers as the “True Parent,” offered blessings for about 20,000 people gathered on the lawn of Sun Moon University, founded by his church in Asan, south of Seoul. About 5,000 couples were married for the first time, the church said. The other 10,000 participants reaffirmed their vows.

Similar mass weddings, although smaller, took place around the world on Wednesday. The Seoul ceremony, which lasted 90 minutes, was broadcast on the Internet.

Moon’s mass weddings are one of the best-known and controversial features of the Unification Church, which espouses “trans-religion, trans-national, trans-racial” harmony.
During Wednesday’s ceremony, the largest of its kind in a decade, brides in white gowns or traditional wedding costumes from their home countries stood in rows with grooms mostly in black suits. They bowed to Moon and his wife, Han Hak-ja, before Moon led three cheers at the end.

Wednesday’s confetti-filled 90-minute spectacle, broadcast live on the Internet in three languages, was the largest Moon has organised since 1999, when 21,000 couples filled Seoul’s Olympic Stadium. And it came as the church, whose adherents are known in many countries as “Moonies,” was struggling to revamp its image and boost its stagnant membership under his three sons, who have begun inheriting day-to-day responsibilities for his religious and business empire.

Unlike their reclusive father, the three sons, all US-educated, have been more public-relations savvy, giving a series of interviews to news media in recent months. The church has also improved its websites, which brim with video clips of the father and sons.

Seated at an altar festooned with flowers and shaped like an ancient Korean royal throne, Moon and his wife, Han Hak-ja smiled and nodded when the 10,000 couples bowed to them on Wednesday.

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