IN MEMORIAM -- September 2, 2012 at 7:14 PM EDT
Religious Leader, Media Mogul Rev. Sun Myung Moon Dies at Age 92
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the controversial self-proclaimed messiah figure who founded the Unification Church and built a business empire from scratch, died Monday at a hospital near his home in South Korea, two weeks after being admitted with pneumonia. He was 92.
The Washington Times, which Moon also founded, issued a statement saying he died just before 2 a.m. local time from complications of pneumonia, surrounded by family, friends and followers.
"Words cannot convey my heart at this time," said Thomas P. McDevitt, president of the Times. "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."
Moon said he saw a vision of Jesus at age 15 and was inspired to continue Jesus' message. In 1954, he founded the Unification Church in South Korea, which spread worldwide and attracted millions of followers.
Moon's mass blessing ceremonies gained international attention -- and notoriety -- for joining thousands of couples in matrimony, some of whom were set up by the evangelist himself.
More than 5,000 couples were married in a ceremony officiated by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon at Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 13, 1998. Photo by Susan Watts/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images.
In addition to The Washington Times, the Unification Church' business holdings included United Press International news agency, the Tongil Group -- a South Korean business group, sushi restaurants and an automobile manufacturing plant.
In the 1980s, Moon served 13 months at a U.S. federal prison for filing false tax returns.
His youngest son, Hyung Jin Moon, was appointed successor of the Unification Church in 2008.
Moon's funeral will be held Sept. 15 and his body laid to rest at Cheonseung Mountain, near his home.
NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports on Moon's legacy.
BBC tells the story of one of the 4,000 couples who married at Madison Square Garden in a Unification Church ceremony in 1982.
The Washington Times has a slide show of Moon's life.
Top photo by Bill Greenblatt/Liaison.