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Dark Side of the Moon

He was the church leader whose congregation was branded one of the most controversial cults of the 20th Century. Hundreds of thousands followed the religious Reverend Moon Sun-Myung and believed his claims that he had been ordered by God to save the world.

His death at the age of 92 is blamed on "overwork, from frequent trips abroad, including to the US, and from morning prayers which caused respiratory disease," according to a spokesman for the Reunification Church which he founded in the the 1950s.

A mortal end for a self proclaimed messiah.

Reverend Moon and his wife Han Hak-ja during a mass wedding at Sun Moon University in Asan in 2010 Credit: Reuters

His belief was that Jesus was divine but not a God; he and his wife were instead joint messiahs.

They were also the high priests of a religion that got rich.

He was best known for the remarkable mass weddings. In 1995 he married 360,000 couples at once. Some of the brides and grooms had only met days before they got married.

'Moonies', as his followers are known, believe that if they marry within the church then their path to heaven is assured.

The peak of membership was during the 70s and 80s when many members would be seen on the streets spreading their own interpretation of the gospel and raising money.

There have always been claims that the cash collected by believers went to the church and so into Rev Moon's bank accounts.

Indeed he became a very wealthy man, owning factories and a US Newspaper; the Washington Times.

Clearly he didn't follow every worldly financial commandment and was convicted of US tax evasion in 1982, spending 11 months with a prison chapel as his nearest church.

Newlyweds fold their hands at a mass wedding ceremony of the Unification Church at Sun Moon University in Asan, south of Seoul in 2010 Credit: Reuters

He was banned from entering Britain in 1995 by the then Home Secretary Michael Howard who said the Rev Moon's presence in the UK would not be "conducive to the public good". The Church was accused of using "inappropriate" methods of recruiting members.

That ban was then lifted by the Labour Home Secretary Charles Clarke in 2005, when the Rev Moon came to Britain and spoke to around a thousand followers. His following had always been very small in the UK.

The Rev. Moon faced constant accusations that his church was a cult, which forced followers to cut off ties with their own families and replace their relations with his religion.

Tales of people 'escaping' from the church led to many news stories and books.

The Church always denied such claims, sometimes targeting those who gave it bad publicity with letters, phone-calls and even visits from believers.

Undated photo of Reverend Moon Sun - Myung Credit: PA

Rev Moon was born in North Korea and after the Korean war was imprisoned, accused of being a spy for the South.

He was a well-known life-long anti-Communist and that political stance made him welcome in 50s and 60s America.

In recent years Church membership has declined but today in South Korea his death is making the headlines. A representative from North Korea may even attend his funeral.

He was well-known but also a mysterious 'messiah'. He will always be a divisive 'divinity', but was he a crooked cult leader or a spiritual saviour?

His passing puts the future of his curious church in doubt.

Control is now in the hands of his wife, sons and daughters, although there are reports of infighting amongst his 10 children.