SEOUL, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Legions of couples said "I do" in a mass wedding near Seoul performed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, leader of the Unification Church, church officials said.
Church officials said some 40,000 men and women either took their vows or renewed them in a global ceremony, the Los Angeles Times reported. An estimated 7,500 couples stood before Moon in an outdoor square at Sun Moon University, the school the religious leader founded in Asan, South Korea, near Seoul.
Tens of thousands of other couples united on other continents -- including Europe and the Americas -- to be part of the "10.14 True Parents Cosmic Blessing Ceremony," participating in the proceedings via the church's Web site, officials said.
Wednesday's global event came nearly 50 years after Moon, 89, arranged the marriages of 24 couples in his first mass wedding at the university. Onstage with his wife, Moon sprinkled holy water on his followers. After an exchange of rings, Moon led congratulatory cheers as confetti filled the air, the Times said.
Since he first performed the mass marriages, Moon has weathered many sex scandals and his Unification Church has been criticized as a cult.
"Mr. Moon calls himself a Messiah, for goodness sake," Tark Ji-il, a religion professor at Busan Presbyterian University in South Korea, told the Times. "Through his sexual relationships, he has claimed that he can cleanse the dirty blood of humankind."
But, Tark said, Moon "symbolized and ritualized the wedding."
Moon founded Unification Church and also founded News World Communications Inc., which owns United Press International.