ASAN, South Korea — Some 7,200 South Korean and foreign couples exchanged or reaffirmed marriage vows in the Unification Church's second mass wedding this year.
Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a self-proclaimed messiah, offered blessings for the participating couples gathered last Sunday at Sun Moon University, the school he founded in Asan, south of Seoul.
"I pronounce marriage for the blessed beautiful women and handsome men standing before God, the Lord, the world, and myself," said the 90-year-old Moon.
The couples exchanged vows and held hands to pray during the one-hour spectacle, which was broadcast live online and through satellite television to 194 countries, church officials said.
The participating couples threw up their hands and cheered "Hurrah!" in unison.
The church apparently did not schedule the ceremony for the novelty of the 10-10-10 date.
Critics say the mass weddings prove the church brainwashes its followers. Followers routinely let Moon pick their spouses on the belief that he has divine insight and many meet their future spouses for the first time at the mass weddings.
Moon, who says he was 15 when Jesus Christ called upon him to carry out his unfinished work, has courted controversy and criticism since founding the Unification Church in Seoul in 1954.
Kansas Democratic Party questions Brownback's ties to evangelist Lou Engle
TOPEKA, Kan. —Kansas Democrats are highlighting Republican gubernatorial nominee Sam Brownback's ties to an evangelist, saying the association raises questions about his judgment.
The Kansas Democratic Party cites Brownback's appearance at a 2007 rally for evangelist Lou Engle, who has urged Christians to fast and pray that "God, the avenger of blood" will heal the nation's sins of abortion and homosexuality.
"Does Sam Brownback know where to draw the line?" said Kenny Johnston, the Kansas Democratic Party's executive director. "It's an important question to ask about Sam Brownback's judgment."
Brownback's campaign declined to comment Tuesday on his ties to Engle. The Kansas Republican Party said Democrats are "grasping at straws" in the final weeks before the Nov. 2 election.
"Senator Brownback is a strong supporter of human rights for all people, everywhere in the world," said Amanda Adkins, chairwoman of the Kansas Republicans.
As a senator, Brownback, who is Roman Catholic, has steadfastly opposed same-sex marriage and abortion, including the use of federal funds domestically and internationally to end pregnancies.
He is favored to defeat Democratic state Sen. Tom Holland for the governor's office.
Cambridge to shut schools for Muslim holidays in what backer says is fair religious treatment
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. —Cambridge will close its schools for one Muslim holiday each year beginning next year.
The school will close for Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, or Eid al-Adha, which celebrates the end of the hajj, or annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
Muslims follow a lunar calendar, so the dates of holidays change each year. School administrators say they will close school on whichever holiday falls within the academic year.
If both days fall within the school calendar, the district will close for one of the days.
Cambridge School Committee member Marc McGovern, who advocated for the policy, argued that Cambridge schools close for some Christian and Jewish holidays and Muslims should be treated the same.
Landmark NYC synagogue's new stained glass window culminates 24-year restoration
NEW YORK — New York City's historic Eldridge Street Synagogue has a new stained glass window, capping a 24-year restoration.
The 1887 synagogue was the city's first congregation built by Eastern European Jews. It drew 1,000 worshippers during its peak years before falling into disrepair by the 1930s.
The stained glass window was unveiled last week by the Museum at Eldridge Street housed within the synagogue. It's a focal point of the neo-Moorish interior. It replaces a clear tablet-shaped glass-block installed in the 1940s. There's no visual documentation of the original window.
The new window is modern, with a blue-and-gold galaxy of stars motif by artists Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans.
The restoration to save the National Historic Landmark sanctuary in lower Manhattan was completed in 2007.
Detroit Archbishop Vigneron at Vatican synod on Mideast, seeking dialogue with Islam, Judaism
DETROIT — Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit is one of three Roman Catholic prelates from North America at the Vatican's Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.
The gathering of 185 bishops from around the world began runs through Oct. 24.
Most participants are from Eastern Catholic churches, and most of the discussion is in Arabic. Those attending also include Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim, leader of the Southfield-based Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle.
The focus is strengthening the church in the Middle East and bolstering dialogue there with leaders of Islam and Judaism.
Southeast Michigan has many members of Eastern rites, including Melkite, Maronite, Chaldean, Syrian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Byzantine and Armenian. The Detroit area has one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States and is home to many Mideast refugees.