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U.S. evangelical pastor's son commits suicide

(Reuters) - The son of popular American evangelical pastor Rick Warren has committed suicide after a life-long struggle with depression and mental illness, according to a letter sent by Warren and his wife, Kay, to the staff of his Saddleback Valley Community Church.

Matthew Warren, 27, took his own life in "a momentary wave of despair at his home" after a "fun evening" with his parents, Warren said in a statement on Saturday.

"Kay and I are overwhelmed by your love, prayers, and kind words," Warren wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday.

Along with leading the Saddleback Church based in Lake Forest, California, Warren is author of the best-selling book "The Purpose Driven Life."

He delivered an invocation at President Barack Obama's first inauguration in January 2009.

Warren described his son as an "incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man. He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room."

Warren said in his statement that all his life, his son had struggled with mental illness, depression and suicidal thoughts.

"In spite of America's best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided," he said.

The Orange County, California, Coroner's office responded to Warren's home in Mission Viejo at 10 a.m. on Friday, according to the agency's records. The City News Service in Los Angeles said Warren was found dead of a self-inflicted gun-shot wound.

Saddleback, one of the largest evangelical churches in the United States, is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. About 20,000 people attend weekly services at the main campus in Lake Forest, California, and at seven other churches located throughout southern California.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Sandra Maler)

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