In this Saturday, June 25, 2005 file photo, Unification Church leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon speaks during his "Now is God's Time" rally in New York. Moon, self-proclaimed messiah who turned his Unification Church into a worldwide religious movement and befriended North Korean leaders as well as U.S. presidents, died on Monday, September 3, 2012, at a church-owned hospital near his home in Gapyeong, northeast of Seoul. He was 92.
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In this Aug. 25, 1992 file photo, Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his wife wave their hands to some 40,000 believers and supporters during a wedding ceremony at Seoul's Olympic Stadium in Seoul, South Korea.
Moon, born in a town that is now in North Korea, founded his religious movement in Seoul in 1954 after surviving the Korean War. He preached new interpretations of lessons from the Bible.
The church gained fame, and notoriety, in the 1970s and '80s for holding mass weddings of thousands of followers, often from different countries, whom Moon matched up in a bid to build a multicultural religious world.
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Some of the 28,000 couples participate in a marriage affirmation ceremony officiated by the Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon, founders of the Unification Church, at RFK Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 29, 1997, in Washington. D.C.
"International and intercultural marriages are the quickest way to bring about an ideal world of peace," Moon said in a 2009 autobiography. "People should marry across national and cultural boundaries with people from countries they consider to be their enemies so that the world of peace can come that much more quickly."
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South Korean evangelist Rev. Sun Myung Moon as he spoke at Madison Square Garden in New York on Sept. 18, 1974.
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Followers of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church (also known as "Moonies") protest pornography in Norfolk, Va., August 8, 1977.
The church was accused of using devious recruitment tactics and duping followers out of money; parents of followers in the United States and elsewhere expressed worries that their children were brainwashed into joining. The church responded by saying that many other new religious movements faced similar accusations in their early stages.
The Unification Church claims millions of members worldwide, though church defectors and other critics say the figure is no more than 100,000.
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Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the head of the Unification Church in the United States, appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee which is holding hearings on religious freedom on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 26, 1984.
In later years, the church adopted a lower profile and focused on building a business empire that included the Washington Times newspaper, the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan, Bridgeport University in Connecticut, as well as a hotel and a fledgling automaker in North Korea. It acquired a ski resort, a professional soccer team and other businesses in South Korea, and a seafood distribution firm that supplies sushi to Japanese restaurants across the U.S.
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In the 1980s Moon was sentenced to 18 months at a U.S. federal prison for tax evasion. The church said the U.S. government persecuted Moon because of his growing influence and popularity with young people in the United States.
Left: The Rev. Sun Myung Moon is released to a halfway house in New York, July 5, 1985 after serving 11 months of his 18-month federal prison sentence for tax evasion. Moon, 65, is accompanied by security personnel, right, and an unidentified woman on left.
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President Mikhail Gorbachev meets the world media group in St. Catherine Hall in Kremlin in Moscow on April 11, 1990. On the first right is Rev. Sun Myung Moon who leads the group that included many former state leaders gathered to hear Gorbachev assessment of the progress of "perestroika."
While preaching the gospel in North Korea in the years after the country was divided into the communist-backed North and U.S.-allied South, Moon was imprisoned there in the late 1940s for allegedly spying for South Korea - a charge Moon disputed.
Moon began rebuilding his relationship with North Korea in 1991, when he met the country's founder Kim Il Sung in the eastern industrial city of Hamhung.
When Kim Il Sung died in 1994, Moon sent a condolence delegation to North Korea, drawing criticism from conservatives at home.
Moon also developed good relationships with conservative American leaders, including former Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
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Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, and his wife bless the brides and the grooms in a mass wedding ceremony at Chamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul February 13, 2000. Unification Church founder Moon married some 60,000 of his believers, many renewing their vows.
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Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his wife Hak Ja Han Moon clap during a group wedding ceremony performed by Rev. Moon 27 May, 2001, at the Hilton Hotel in New York. Roman Catholic Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, a Zambian cleric, was wed to Maria Sung of Korea in the ceremony. Archbishop Milingo is controversial among the Vatican hierarchy for his faith-healing activities and marrying without dispensation from the church.
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Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, speaks during a meeting with 2,500 clergy in Washington, D.C., in this April 16, 2001 file photo.
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The Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, walk down a red carpet as they are introduced during the Affirmation of Vows part of the Interreligious and International Couple's Blessing and Rededication Ceremony at New York's Manhattan Center, Sept. 14, 2002. About 500-600 couples participated in the New York ceremony and an estimated 21 million couples participated worldwide via a simulcast to 185 countries.
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Thousands of couples take part in a mass wedding ceremony February 16, 2002 at South Korea's Olympic stadium in Seoul. About 3,500 couples from 186 countries around the world exchanged wedding vows in what the Unification Church billed as one of its largest weddings ever.
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A young bride from the Unification Church, known as "Moonies," rushes past others in attendance at a mass wedding at Seoul's Olympic stadium February 7, 2009. Unification Church founder Sun Myong Moon officiated over the wedding of some 40,000 couples of his believers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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