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Rev. Sun Myung Moon dies at 92

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the leader of the Unification Church and founder of The Washington Times, died just before 2 a.m. local time (12:54 p.m. EDT Sunday) from complications of pneumonia at Cheongshim International Hospital outside Seoul.

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the leader of the Unification Church and founder of The Washington Times, died early Monday morning in South Korea. He was 92.

Rev. Sun Myung Moon
(Photo via H.S.A.-U.W.C.)

According to a story by Cheryl Wetzstein of The Washington Times, Moon passed away just before 2 a.m. local time (12:54 p.m. EDT Sunday) from complications of pneumonia at Cheongshim International Hospital outside Seoul.

He was surrounded by family, friends and followers, according to Unification Church leaders. A comment was not immediately available from Unification Church International President Hyung Jin Moon, his youngest son and appointed successor of the religious movement.

However, the Washington Times reported, in the weeks prior to his passing, Rev. Joon Ho Seuk, the church’s international vice president, said that members worldwide had been conducting prayer vigils and fasting for Moon’s health.

In addition to leading the worldwide religious movement he founded in South Korea in 1954, Moon supported anti-communist causes during the Cold War, promoted international and interfaith peace activities, and strongly advocated a pro-marriage, pro-family culture. “Words cannot convey my heart at this time,” said Thomas P. McDevitt, president of The Washington Times.

He added, “Rev. Sun Myung Moon has long loved America, and he believed in the need for a powerful free press to convey accurate information and moral values to people in a free world. The Washington Times stands as a tangible expression of those two loves.”

The Washington Times reported that after a period of almost two weeks to allow tributes and prepare the body, a memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Korean time on Sept. 15 (9 p.m., Sept. 14 EDT). The service will be at the Cheongshim Peace World Center in the church’s Cheongpyeong complex, about 40 miles northeast of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province.

The Washington Times said a businessman and lifelong champion of the free press, Moon founded newspapers, magazines, electronic media outlets and digital publications in the U.S., Japan, South Korea and many Latin American, African and European countries.

The Washington Times reported that Neil Bush, chairman of Points of Light and son of President George H.W. Bush, said “As controversial as Rev. Moon was in the United States, I got to know him as a man whose heart was focused on bringing together people of different faiths to bridge divides. His call on people of faith to serve others is an important legacy.”

According to the Washington Times Ambassador K.V. Rajan, former permanent secretary of India’s Ministry of External Affairs said that Moon “will always be remembered as the embodiment of loving and sharing without limits, sacrifice and suffering without limits, courage and service without limits — and all this not for family, race, community or nation, but for humankind as a whole.”

Moon traveled the world numerous times and went on speaking tours as recently as 2011. The Washington Times said he started or inspired hundreds of organizations and met with countless world leaders, notably such communist leaders as former Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev and North Korea’s Kim Il-sung. On a trip in July 2008, he and his family survived a helicopter crash in Korea.

But throughout his life, the Washington Times said, Moon’s teachings and his church’s practices sparked criticism, suspicion and persecution. He was jailed six times and survived numerous beatings and a North Korean labor camp.

“I am a controversial person. The mere mention of my name causes trouble in the world,” Moon wrote in his 2009 autobiography, “As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen.”

The Washington Times said Moon became widely known to Americans in the 1970s during his evangelistic rallies across the country, and major rallies at Yankee Stadium and the Washington Monument in 1976.

America was in “moral decline,”Moon wrote in his autobiography, “and (I) played the role of a fireman responding to a call in an effort to reawaken its Puritan spirit.”

However, the Washington Times reported, accusations that his church “brainwashed” members helped make Moon the target of repeated investigations. In 1982, he was convicted of income tax evasion and eventually served 13 months in federal prison.

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