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The fact that Rev. Moon was able to pursue his own ministry over the course of decades and prepare his followers for the way forward after he died means “that his teaching will be that much better understood by believers even when he is gone,” Mr. Ahn said.

Bo Hi Pak, who worked beside and translated for Rev. Moon for more than a half-century, said he shared Mr. Ahn’s optimism.

“Reverend Moon’s teachings were completely recorded. We know what he left us as a spiritual will,” said Mr. Pak, who was the first president and chairman of The Washington Times when it was founded in 1982.

Mrs. Moon will be our leader from now on and she has essentially been in training for this mission by Rev. Moon for 50 years. I really believe the church is going to grow in leaps and bounds after this.”

Overflow crowd

Men in black suits and women in cream-white dresses passed steadily throughout the day Wednesday to pay their last respects to Rev. Moon. Church officials say that more than 30,000 believers are expected to watch Saturday’s “seonghwa,”or ascension, ceremony from inside the cultural center and from other locations on the campus, and all hotels within an hour’s drive of the Gapyeong site have quickly been filled. Flowers had to be imported from Japan after local suppliers ran short, officials said.

Streams of pilgrims, most from Korea and Japan, but with sizable numbers from Western countries and Africa, climbed flights of white stone steps under overcast skies to enter the complex, signing in to an electronic visitors’ book. The mood was somber but understated, with many arriving in couples or in family groups to spend the day.

Senior church members and specially invited guests were able to view the robe-draped reverend’s body, placed in a glass-topped bier surrounded by flowers at the imposing white domed palace on Mount Cheonseong on a hillside overlooking the indoor stadium. The site includes a church training center, the hospital where Rev. Moon was treated in his final days, schools and meditation sites beside a lake.

After viewing a film of Rev. Moon’s life and works, mourners were brought in groups of eight to a large portrait of the founder on a stage erected at the sports complex. As soft piano music played in the background, mourners placed a single rose or lily at the foot of the large oil portrait before moving to the side of an elevated incense altar where members of the Moon family were lined up throughout the 14-hour daily viewing sessions to exchange with the visitors a traditional bow.

Ribbon-draped bouquets from South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and other national and international figures ringed the entire bowl of the arena. As mourners departed, many weeping or wiping their eyes, they could record their thoughts with marking pens on giant walls set up just outside.

“I will love you forever. I will fulfill your dream for my country, the Philippines!” one follower wrote.

Although his voice cracked from emotion several times during the interview, Mr. Pak also noted that some church members were also joking that the funeral could provide a reason for the reverend’s followers to redouble their efforts to amplify his message and his mission.

“People are saying: ‘Now Reverend Moon is looking down on us from the sky every moment of the day. I must do my job as well as I can. This is no time for delinquency.’”