- - Sunday, March 25, 2012

An estimated 2,500 couples from more than 50 countries exchanged or reaffirmed wedding vows Saturday in a Unification Church ceremony held before more than 15,000 spectators in a stadium in Gapeyeong, South Korea.

The church’s founder, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, presided over the event, blessing the couples in the stadium, about 50 miles northeast of Seoul. Thousands more participated over the Internet and in ceremonies around the world, including 40 couples in Washington, a church spokesman said.

In the Unification Church tradition, known as the “Marriage Blessing,” or simply the “Blessing,” many married couples rededicate their vows alongside the newly married.

Unification Church ministers estimated that 165 people from the United States whose parents had been matched and married by Rev. Moon took part in Saturday’s event.

“This whole experience has been absolutely amazing. I mean really, really happy,” Chouchane Saemie of Britain told the Reuters news agency.

“The mass wedding leads all mankind to be one, removing the boundaries of ethnicities, religious and nationalities,” senior South Korean church official Seuk Joon-ho told the news service. “Our goal is making the world peaceful with forming new families.”

Rev. Moon, 92, founded the church, officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, in 1954.

He also started The Washington Times. The newspaper today is owned and operated by a five-member board affiliated with the Unification Church.

The Washington couples joined in the ceremonies with a banquet at the Unification Church of Washington, hosted by the Rev. Zagery Oliver, the church’s pastor, and his wife, Fumi.

Other couples participating in the event were from New York and from San Leandro and Pasadena, Calif.

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