The pastor emeritus of the world's largest congregation passed away at a Seoul hospital. He had been under medical treatment after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage last year.

In a letter to the Yoido Full Gospel Church, World Council of Churches (WCC) acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca expressed his deep sorrow and prayers in support of the bereaved family and all members the church.

As we mourn his passing away, we give thanks to his contribution and support to the 10th WCC Assembly which took place in Busan, Republic of Korea,” Sauca wrote. We also deeply appreciate that he encouraged his church members to fully participate in the Busan Assembly.”

Cho was born in 1936 in the southeastern rural county of Ulju, from a Buddhist family. His family moved to the southern port city of Busan after the 1950-53 Korean War broke out.

He is known to have come to believe in God after being diagnosed with fatal phthisis when he was 17 years old.

In 1956, he entered a Full Gospel college in Seoul to study theology. While there, he met Choi Ja-shil, who later became his mother-in-law and a close religious associate.

After graduating in 1958, he opened a tent church in northwestern Seoul, which later moved to Yeouido, a financial district in the capital, and became Yoido Full Gospel Church with more than 700,000 followers.

He established the newspaper Kookmin Daily in 1988 and set up Good People, an international nongovernment development organization for human rights, environment and child welfare.

Cho stepped down as a senior pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church in 2008.

His funeral will be held Saturday at the grand hall of Yoido Full Gospel Church in central Seoul after days of mourning, according to the church.