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Pastor Rick Warren's Son, 27, Kills Himself

The 27-year-old son of popular US evangelist Rick Warren has killed himself, the California church led by the pastor has announced.

Saddleback Valley Community Church , near Los Angeles, said in a statement that Matthew Warren had struggled with mental illness throughout his life.

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

"Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts.

"Despite the best healthcare available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life."

Mr Warren, the author of best-seller The Purpose Driven Life, delivered the invocation at President Barack Obama's inauguration in January 2009.

He said in an email to church staff that he and his wife had enjoyed a fun Friday evening with their son.

But Matthew Warren took his own life in "a momentary wave of despair at his home".

His 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.

Over the years, Matthew Warren had been treated by America's best doctors and counsellors, and many well-wishers had prayed for him, his father said.

"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?'" Mr Warren recalled.

Despite that, he said, his son lived for another decade.

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

"He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He'd then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them."

In 2008, Saddleback Valley Community Church sponsored a presidential forum with Mr Obama and the Republican candidate, John McCain.

Mr Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney had been invited to a similar forum last autumn, but Mr Warren cancelled it saying the campaign had become too uncivil.

Mr Warren founded Saddleback Church in 1980 in Lake Forest, 65 miles southeast of Los Angeles.