Son of popular US evangelist Rick Warren kills himself

LAKE FOREST, Calif. - The son of popular U.S. evangelist Rick Warren killed himself, the California church announced Saturday.

Warren drew national attention in 2009 when he gave the invocation at President Barack Obama's historic inauguration. He's the author of the multimillion-selling book "The Purpose Driven Life."

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Warren's Saddleback Valley Community Church said in a statement that 27-year-old Matthew Warren had struggled with mental illness and deep depression throughout his life.

"Matthew was an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many," the statement said.

"Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts. Despite the best health care available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled, and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life."

Matthew Warren's body was found in his home Friday night, said Allison O'Neal, a supervising deputy coroner for Orange County. She declined to release the cause and manner of death pending an autopsy.

Rick Warren said in an email to church staff that he and his wife had enjoyed a fun Friday evening with their son before Matthew Warren returned home to take his life in "a momentary wave of despair."

Church spokeswoman Kristin Cole said he died Friday night.

Over the years, Matthew Warren had been treated by America's best doctors, had received counselling and medication and been the recipient of numerous prayers from others, his father said.

Still, he struggled over the years.

"I'll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said 'Dad, I know I'm going to heaven. Why can't I just die and end this pain?'" Warren recalled.

Despite that, he said, his son lived for another decade, during which he often reached out to help others.

"You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man," Warren wrote.

The elder Warren founded Saddleback Church in 1980, according to his biography on the church website, and over the years watched it grow to 20,000 members.

In 2008, the church sponsored a presidential forum with Obama and Republican challenger John McCain. Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney had been invited to a similar forum last year, but Warren cancelled it, saying the campaign had become too uncivil.

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