AFP, Gapyeong : Thousands of Unification Church members were married in a mass wedding in South Korea Wednesday-only the second such event since the death of their “messiah” and controversial church founder Sun Myung Moon. Some 2,500 identically-dressed couples-many of mixed nationality who had met just days before-took part in the ceremony at the church’s global headquarters in Gapyeong, east of the capital Seoul. Mass weddings, some held in giant sports stadia with tens of thousands of couples, have long been a signature feature of the church and one that “Moonie” critics have pointed to as evidence of cult underpinnings. Moon died in September 2012, aged 92, of complications from pneumonia, and his 71-year-old widow Hak Ja Han presided over Wednesday’s ceremony. The church’s mass weddings began in the early 1960s. At first, they involved just a few dozen couples but the numbers mushroomed over the years. In 1997, 30,000 couples tied the knot in Washington, and two years later around 21,000 filled the Olympic Stadium in Seoul. Nearly all were personally matched by Moon, who taught that romantic love led to sexual promiscuity, mismatched couples and dysfunctional societies. Many were married just hours after meeting for the first time, and Moon’s preference for cross-cultural, international marriages meant that they often shared no common language. In recent years, matchmaking responsibilities have shifted towards parents, but many of the church members married on Wednesday had chosen to be paired off a few days before at an “engagement ceremony” presided over by Moon’s widow.