Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon dead at 92

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(CNN) — The Rev. Sun Myung Moon — founder of the church whose followers are colloquially known as the Moonies — died early Monday in South Korea, a newspaper he founded reported, citing church leaders.

The Washington Times reported on its website that Unification Church leaders said Moon died around 2 a.m. Monday (1 p.m. ET Sunday) due to complications related to pneumonia. He was 92.

“Words cannot convey my heart at this time,” said Thomas P. McDevitt, president of The Washington Times, one of the publications that Moon helped found. “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.”

Doctors put Moon in intensive care in a Seoul hospital last Tuesday after he suddenly fell ill, church spokesman Ahn Ho-yeol said then. At the time, physicians gave him a 50% chance of survival.

The Unification Church gained fame worldwide for its mass weddings decades ago, including at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

Many met their spouses-to-be for the first time during the ceremony. In addition to weddings in South Korea, couples from various countries took part in the ceremony through satellite hookups.

The controversial Moon, whose church critics compare to a cult, served a federal prison term in the United States for tax evasion.

He was also a strong supporter of Republican politicians including Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, said Eileen Barker, a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

He was “virulently anti-Communist,” having been imprisoned in North Korea during the Korean War before being freed by the allies, she said.

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