- Blessing ceremony of the Unification Church
The Blessing ceremony of the Unification Church is a wedding or marriage rededication ceremony sponsored by the Unification Church. It is given to married (or engaged) couples. Through it, members of the Unification Church believe, the couple is removed from the lineage of sinful humanity and engrafted into God’s sinless lineage. As a result the couple’s marital relationship—and any children born after the Blessing—exist free from the consequences of original sin. (Children born into Blessed families are known as Blessed Children or second generation.)
For Unificationists, these interracial, interreligious and international mass marriage ceremonies symbolize the family as the hope for peace.
Frank Kaufmann, a leading Unificationist scholar, wrote:
We do not have mass weddings because Reverend Moon doesn't know any better, doesn't know how Americans react to things, or that he stubbornly adheres to some odd Korean habit. Our matchings and weddings are a direct and perfect manifestation of a profound theology and world view. You see, Unificationists believe that all the problems on Earth, from the Gulf War, to child abuse, to the crumbling school system (you name it) are fruits of the fact that self interest crept in to the family, the love between husband and wife, reproductive affairs, and parent child relationships, thus since the beginning there has never been even one family whose members were not dominated by some significant degree of self interest.
Blessings of church members
The Blessing ceremony was first held 1961 for 36 couples in Seoul, South Korea by Reverend and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon shortly after their own marriage in 1960. All the couples were members of the Unification Church. Rev. Moon matched all of the couples except the 12 who were already married to each other from before joining the church, which was officially founded in 1954.
Later Blessing ceremonies were larger in scale but followed the same pattern with all participants Unification Church members and Rev. Moon matching most of the couples. In 1982 the first large scale Blessing held outside of Korea took place in Madison Square Garden in New York City. In 1988, Moon matched 2,500 Korean members with Japanese members for a Blessing ceremony held in Korea, partly in order to promote unity between the two nations.
The Blessing ceremonies have attracted a lot of attention in the press and in the public imagination, often being labeled "mass weddings". However, in most cases the Blessing ceremony is not a legal wedding ceremony. Some couples are already married and those that are engaged are later legally married according to the laws of their own countries. The New York Times referred to a 1997 ceremony for 28,000 couples as a "marriage affirmation ceremony," adding: "The real weddings were held later in separate legal ceremonies." 
Blessing extended to non-members
The 1990s saw a big change when Rev. Moon allowed the Blessing to be given to other people besides Unification Church members. This liberalization led to a great increase in the number of Blessed couples, with most of them having been already married and not Unification Church members. It is possible for any Blessed couple to give the Blessing to other couples and this is being done in many cases by ministers of other churches who have received the Blessing though their association with the Unification Church. Ministers of other faiths, including Judaism and Islam have served as "co-officiators" at Blessing ceremonies presided over by Rev. and Mrs. Moon.
In 1997 Rev. and Mrs. Moon presided over a Blessing ceremony in Washington D. C. in which 28,000 of the 30,000 couples taking part were previously married, including controversial Baptist minister and civil rights advocate Al Sharpton and his wife Katherine. A 2000 ceremony included couples in North Korea. In 2001 Roman Catholic Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo married Maria Sung, a Korean acupuncturist, in a Blessing ceremony presided over by Rev. and Mrs. Moon. In the same ceremony George Augustus Stallings, founder of the Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation, married Sayomi Kamimoto, a Japanese Unification Church member. At the same ceremony was Minister Benjamin Muhammad, the national director of the Million Man March and the Million Family March and a representative of Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam. Former Ugandan President Godfrey Binaisa married a young Japanese woman by the Blessing ceremony in 2004. At that time, Godfrey was 84 years old.
Since 2001 couples Blessed by Moon have been able to arrange marriages for their own children, without his direct guidance. In 2009 the Moons held a Blessing ceremony for 40,000 couples which was expected to be the last personally officiated by them.
The Blessing has five steps:
- The Chastening Ceremony. The couple strike each other three times to symbolically make an end to sin and prepare for a new beginning.
- The Holy Wine Ceremony. The couple share a cup of Holy Wine (or grape juice) symbolizing their engrafting into God’s sinless lineage.
- The Holy Blessing Ceremony. The couple exchange vows. A prayer is offered by the officiators. The couple is sprinkled with holy water.
- The Separation Period. The couple refrains from having sexual relations for a period, most often 40 days but in some cases much longer, before consummating, or re-consummating, their marriage.
- The Three Day Ceremony. The couple begins, or re-begins, their married life in a highly symbolic ceremony over three days which is considered to reverse the fall of Adam and Eve.
Couples taking part in Blessing ceremonies exchange these four vows:
- To become a true man or woman who practices sexual purity and lives for the sake of others;
- To become a true husband or wife who respects True Parents' example and establishes an eternal family which brings joy to God;
- To become a parent who educates their children to follow the tradition of true love for the sake of the family and world; and
- To create an ideal family which contributes to world peace.
Reaction and criticism
Members of some churches have expressed concerns that people of their churches taking part in Blessing ceremonies might join the Unification Church. In 1998 journalist Peter Maass reported that some Unification Church members were dismayed and grumbled when Moon extended the Blessing to non-members because they had not gone through the same course that members had.
The Blessing ceremony figured in the plot of Don DeLillo's 1991 novel Mao II. In 2007 the British television network Channel 4 aired a documentary film, My Big Fat Moonie Wedding, about some of the participants in the 1982 Blessing ceremony of over 2,000 couples which took place in Madison Square Garden. In in his 2009 autobiography, Tahoe Boy: A Journey Back Home, Pat Hickey, a state representative in Nevada and former Unification Church member who took part in the same ceremony, wrote about his experience of being matched to his future wife by Moon. 
- ^ The Words of Frank Kaufmannn
- ^ Duddy, Neil Interview: Dr. Mose Durst
- ^ MARRIAGE BY THE NUMBERS; MOON PRESIDES AS 6,500 COUPLES WED IN S. KOREA Peter Maass Washington Post October 31, 1988
- ^ Despite controversy, Moon and his church moving into mainstream Chicago Tribune, April 11, 2006. 'The church's most spectacular rite remains mass weddings, which the church calls the way "fallen men and women can be engrafted into the true lineage of God."'
- ^ At RFK, Moon Presides Over Mass Wedding, Washington Post, November 3, 1997, "Church and stadium officials estimated that more than 40,000 people, mostly couples, attended the event, including the Moon-matched couples who took their marriage vows on the football field and exchanged gold rings displaying the church symbol. Those couples, however, must still fulfill whatever requirements exist where they live to be considered legally married."
- ^ 28,000 Couples Gather for Rev. Moon Rites, New York Times, November 30, 1997
- ^ From the Unification Church to the Unification Movement, 1994-1999: Five Years of Dramatic Changes Massimo Introvigne, Center for Studies on New Religions "The ceremony in Washington, D.C., included six "co-officiators" from other faiths, including controversial minister Louis Farrakhan from the Nation of Islam. The Blessing ceremony in Seoul on February 7, 1999 also featured seven co-officiators including Orthodox Rabbi Virgil Kranz (Chairman of the American Jewish Assembly), controversial Catholic Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and the General Superintendent of the Church of God in Christ (a large African American Pentecostal denomination), Rev. T.L. Barrett."
- ^ Mass Moonie Marriage in the US
- ^ Sharpton in Ceremonies Of Unification Church, New York Times, September 12, 1997
- ^ Moonies join hands across the border, The Guardian, 2000-02-10
- ^ A Marriage Made in Heaven?, Washington Post, March 11, 2007
- ^ "Maverick Catholic Archbishop Married by Rev. Moon"
- ^ Archbishop Faces Excommunication After Marrying Beliefnet.com
- ^ Ex-Uganda leader weds by satellite, BBC News
- ^ Children of Moon church's mass-wedding age face a crossroads, Washington Post, January 3, 2009
- ^ Is mass wedding the last for Unification Church's Sun Myung Moon?, Christian Science Monitor, October 14, 2009
- ^ Introduction to the Blessing Ceremony Official website of the United States Unification Church.
- ^ Massimo Introvigne, From the Unification Church to the Unification Movement, 1994-1999: Five Years of Dramatic Changes, 1999, Center for Studies on New Religions
- ^ excerpt The Unification Church Studies in Contemporary Religion, Massimo Introvigne, 2000, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah, ISBN 1-56085-145-7 "From a different perspective, it is true that participation of people who are not members of the Unification Church in certain Unificationist activities, such as marriage blessings, may be of concern to established churches. They perceive the possibility that their own members may become confused by their participation in such Unificationist activities and fear that they may in fact end up converting to Unificationism." -p59-60
- ^ Moon at Twilight, Peter Maass, The New Yorker "The campaign has dismayed some church members, because a blessing from Moon used to be a hard-won privilege, typically attained only after a person had joined the church, worked in it for several years, and agreed to marry someone--usually a stranger--selected by Moon. But grumblings about the blessing campaign are just the beginning of Moon's current troubles."
- ^ "Dangerous Don DeLillo", May 19, 1991 New York Times
- ^ My Big Fat Moonie Wedding, Channel 4, December 5, 2007
- ^ My Big Fat Moonie Wedding, The Mirror, December 5, 2007
- ^ My Big Fat Moonie Wedding, The London Paper, December 5, 2007
- ^ Nevadan recounts his life as wandering son, Las Vegas Review-Journal, December 15, 2009
- ^ Susan Skorupa, "Memoir recalls writer's life in area religion", Reno Gazette-Journal, July 26, 2009
- ^ Hickey back in Assembly after 14-year hiatus, Las Vegas Review-Journal, January 17, 2010
- Article on the Blessing from an official church website.
- "Children of Moon church's mass-wedding age face a crossroads", by The Washington Post
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