Thousands attend funeral for Moon

Tens of thousands of mourners sobbed, sang, prayed and vowed to cherish the Rev Sun Myung Moon's teachings as they said goodbye to their self-proclaimed messiah and "True Father," whose death earlier this month shed light again on his controversial religious and business empire.

Moon, founder of the Unification Church, best known for conducting mass weddings meant to build a harmonious, multicultural world, died on September 3 at the age of 92.

His church has been accused of brainwashing recruits and duping them out of money, but followers believe Moon's claim that he was put on Earth to complete Jesus Christ's works.

"His will is a divine will, different from normal people," said 69-year-old office worker Jeong Hye-ok. "I believe he will establish a foundation to build a heavenly world that unifies peace on earth."

Moon's funeral, which followed a 13-day mourning period, was held in Gapyeong County, northeast of Seoul, where he spent his last days at a church-affiliated hospital.

About 35,000 people - men clad in black suits and women in white dresses - attended the funeral.

"He will be in our minds permanently," said Lee Ok-su, a church choir member, her face flushed with emotion. "He is our benevolent yet strict father."

The funeral, which lasted more than two hours, began when men wearing military honour guard-style uniforms carried Moon's coffin into a multipurpose gymnasium. They slowly carried it up red-carpeted steps decked with flowers and placed it in front of a large portrait of Moon.

Many mourners wept as a top church official said in a speech that Moon was moving into a spiritual world after completing the messianic role that God had asked of him.

Family members, senior church officials and prominent politicians placed flowers at an altar. A flower-decorated van carrying the hearse left the gym and drove through streets lined with people waving flags. Thousands of church members filled the grounds near the gym and watched the funeral on giant TV screens. Moon's body was buried on a nearby mountain.