Thousands join Moon for mass wedding in South Korea

SEOUL (Reuters) - About 2,500 couples from around the world exchanged or reaffirmed wedding vows at a South Korean stadium on Saturday and got a blessing from the founder of the Unification Church, Reverend Sun Myung Moon.

The 92-year-old Moon and his wife sprinkled "holy water" over a group of couples called onto the stage and declared them bound in wedlock.

"This whole experience has been absolutely amazing. I mean really, really happy," said Chouchane Saemie, a bridegroom from Britain.

A church spokesman said that in addition to the 2,500 couples from more than 50 countries at the ceremony at a church stadium in Gapyeong, 75 km (50 miles) from Seoul, another 2,700 couples joined in via the Internet.

More than 15,000 followers and guests gathered at the stadium for the ceremony, he said.

"The mass wedding leads all mankind to be one, removing the boundaries of ethnicities, religions and nationalities," said senior South Korean church official Seuk Joon-ho.

"Our goal is making the world peaceful with forming new families."

The brides wore white and the bridegrooms tuxedos.

Moon founded the church, officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, in 1954 and declared in 1992 that he and his wife were messiahs. The church considers the Korean peninsula sacred.

He has presided over mass weddings since the early 1960s.

One of Moon's sons, Hyung Jin, has taken over the day-to-day leadership of the church which has 5 million to 7 million followers around the world.

Critics have vilified the group as heretical and a dangerous personality cult, questioning its murky finances and accusing it of indoctrinating followers. The church denies that.

(Reporting by Sung-won Shim and Reuters TV; Editing by Robeert Birsel)

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