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Mrs. Moon then placed the first shovelful of dirt on the coffin as a small group of top church officials and colleagues of the spiritual leader looked on.

Outsiders have been sharply divided over the size and scope of the Unification Church in recent years, but there was no denying the outpouring of emotion or the large crowds of people who trekked to the out-of-the-way complex in the days leading up to the final farewell.

The two upper levels of the of the Cheongshim Peace World Center indoor stadium were completely filled two hours before the funeral, the men in black suits with white ties and the women almost uniformly dressed in cream- or white-colored gowns.

Church officials estimated that some 35,000 people made the journey to Gapyeong on Saturday. Cars and scores of chartered buses already were backed up on the two-lane road that leads to the center as dawn broke four hours before the ceremony was to begin.

Also in attendance was a large international delegation of political, diplomatic and religious figures who worked with Rev. Moon’s ministry, which grew from a tiny, embattled church in his native South Korea to a global spiritual movement and an affiliated commercial empire comprising real estate, manufacturing and agricultural operations, and media properties including The Washington Times.

Clergy, political leaders and members of the church’s Universal Peace Federation recalled before the ceremony Rev. Moon’s ministry and lifelong drive to bridge the differences and end the divisions between the world’s great faith traditions.

“What stands out for me was his determination and courage to end the infightings in the world,” said Tarsem Singh King, who broke a barrier himself when he became the first politician of Asian ancestry to join Britain’s House of Lords.

Mr. King was one of several dignitaries who spoke at the funeral, praising Rev. Moon’s lifelong work to break down denominational walls between religions. Rev. Moon, he said, had proved time and again “his willingness to risk his life for the sake of God’s will.”

“Father Moon’s legacy is still alive and well,” he said.

Peter Lokeris, a Ugandan Cabinet minister, said: “I heard about Rev. Moon in the 1990s and learned that he was answering the call of God to love one another and become one family under God. We think the people of Africa and the world should enjoy peace as proud people of God.”

Overflow crowd

The arena where the funeral service was held seated only 14,000, so many visitors had to watch the ceremony from live broadcasts around the church campus, which includes schools, a hospital and training center.

Thousands of mourners gathered outside the stadium to view the proceedings, including at least 5,000 who gathered on one deck of the stadium in front of a large video screen. Countless more lined the road leading up to the church’s holy estate and the mountainside site where Rev. Moon was laid to rest

Dozens of flags flanked the flower-decked altar topped by a large oil painting of Rev. Moon. Floral tributes from Korean and international dignitaries, including some from South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, ringed the lower bowl of the stadium.

The ascension also was broadcast live to hundreds of locations worldwide, church officials said.

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