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Originally published Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 10:23 AM

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Warren 'overwhelmed' by response to son's death

Megachurch pastor and popular Christian author Rick Warren posted a message on Twitter Sunday saying he was "overwhelmed" by the love and support offered after the apparent suicide of the youngest of his three children.

The Associated Press

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LAKE FOREST, Calif. —

Megachurch pastor and popular Christian author Rick Warren posted a message on Twitter Sunday saying he was "overwhelmed" by the love and support offered after the apparent suicide of the youngest of his three children.

"Kay and I are overwhelmed by your love, prayers, and kind words," Warren tweeted to his nearly one million followers two days after Matthew Warren, 27, was found dead. "You are all encouraging our (hash)brokenhearts." The pastor posted the same message on his Facebook page.

Warren did not attend Sunday services at his Saddleback Church in Orange County, where worshippers opened the meeting with a prayer for the family.

Tom Holladay, teaching pastor at Saddleback and Matthew Warren's uncle, opened the 9 a.m. worship service by saying the congregation would face the tragedy together, "as a church family."

Holladay led a prayer for Warren and his wife, Kay, and their surviving son and daughter.

The Warrens said in an email to church staff Saturday that Matthew Warren had taken his own life in a "momentary wave of despair." It said he had long struggled to control his emotional pain despite years of prayers and the best available treatment.

"Matthew was an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many," the email said. "Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts."

Allison O'Neal, a supervising deputy coroner for Orange County, declined to release the cause and manner of death pending an autopsy planned for Tuesday.

The elder Warren founded Saddleback Church in 1980, according to his biography on the church website, and watched it grow to 20,000 members and several campuses beyond its home base of Lake Forest.

Already well-known among evangelical Christians, he became a national celebrity in 2002 with the publication of the multimillion-selling book "The Purpose Driven Life," whose popularity reached far beyond the usual religious readers.

He later delivered the opening prayer at Barack Obama's inauguration in 2008.

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