'Moonies' to hold world peace ceremony in Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia - A group from the Unification Church - better known as the "Moonies" - is to hold a conference on family values and world peace in Tallinn on Friday. The organisation - whose nickname comes from the name of its Korean founder, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon - bases its theology on Christianity, but views itself as ecumenical. In the past it has most been associated with mass weddings conducted by Moon.

Moon himself visited the Baltic states last year. On that occasion he hosted a conference on the organisation's aims which was attended by religious leaders from across the region.

Rather than spreading peace, however, the conference caused a serious ecclesiastical breach in neighbouring Latvia. It was attended by the conservative archbishop of the Latvian Lutheran church, Janis Vanags, and the professor of theology at the University of Latvia, Juris Calitis, a serving priest.

During the conference, Calitis participated in a wine-drinking ceremony - an act Vanags interpreted as a betrayal of the sanctity of holy communion. As a result, an inquiry was launched within the Latvian church, and Calitis was forbidden to serve as a priest.

Calitis' parishioners supported him, however, refusing to adopt a different priest. According to Calitis, Vanags subsequently withdrew his objection to the wine-drinking, which was of a non-sacramental nature; however, the schism within the church persists.

Perhaps to avoid the risk of further controversy, Friday's meeting is not scheduled to be dramatic. It is expected to include a toast to world peace, the renewal of marriage vows among church members, and the appointment of "ambassadors for peace."

The conference is to be attended by members of Moon's family. It is part of a world promotion tour taking in 40 countries, Baltic News Service BNS reported.