Rev Moon
Self-styled messiah Rev Sun Myung Moon died aged 92 (Reuters) Reuters

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the self-styled messiah and founder of the worldwide religious movement the Unification Church, has died at the age of 92.

Moon, whose church gained world fame by holding mass weddings ceremonies, died of complications from pneumonia at a hospital near his home in Gapyeong, about 60km northeast of Seoul.

His death was pronounced at the church-owned Cheongshim International Medical Centre.

Moon was admitted to intensive care at Seoul St Mary's Hospital with pneumonia 14 August.

As the prognosis got gloomier, he was moved to the estate medical centre to spend his last few days.

Members of the church, known as Moonies, have entered a 13-day mourning period of mourning.

Born in Jeongju, North Korea in 1920, Moon founded his religious movement in 1954. He said that when he was 15 Jesus appeared to him and demanded he set up God's kingdom on Earth.

Mass weddings soon became the trademark of the movement.

Often it was Moon himself who matched the couples who were unknown to each other before the ceremony. Moon preferred brides and grooms from different racial backgrounds as he believed in the creation of a multicultural religious world.

Moon and his church were often accused of brainwashing believers to make himself rich.

He turned his church into a global business empire, running numerous enterprises around the world, including the Washington Times and UPI news agency in the US, Segye Times in Korea, carmaking companies, hotels, universities and food distributors.

In 1982 Moon was jailed 11 months in the US for tax evasion.

"He was our father and God's messiah. His body was custom-made by God so we believed he would live until 100," his aide Bo Hi Pak said.

The youngest of his seven sons, Rev Moon Hyung-Jin, 32, is expected to take over the church leadership.

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