Templeton Prize 2015
On May 8, 2015, in London, Jean Vanier was awarded the Templeton Prize. The John Templeton Foundation yearly honors a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.
Vanier’s five decades of living with deeply vulnerable people have led him to an understanding of weakness and common humanity.
In nominating Vanier for the prize, John Swinton, Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care in the Divinity School at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, compared Vanier, a philosopher by training, to a rigorous scientist. “One can conceive of L’Arche and Faith and Light as living laboratories where Vanier essentially exposed his ideas to the most challenging test of all – real people, real problems, and real life.”
Jennifer Simpson, the daughter of Foundation president and chairman Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr. and granddaughter of Sir John Templeton, noted that Vanier brought a much-needed perspective to how the power of love can advance spiritual progress in the world. “By recognizing the importance of every individual, regardless of their station in life, Jean Vanier underscores how each of us has the ability not only to lift up others, but also ourselves,” she said. “His powerful message and practice of love has the potential to change the world for the better, just as it has already changed the lives of countless individuals who have been touched by this extraordinary man.”
In his acceptance speech Vanier made a plea for global peace. “Before being Christians or Jews or Muslims, before being Americans or Russians or Africans, before being generals or priests, rabbis or imams, before having visible or invisible disabilities, we are all human beings with hearts capable of loving.”
Jean Vanier joins a distinguished group of 44 former recipients, including Mother Teresa, who received the inaugural Prize award in 1973; Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1983); Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa (2013) and the Dalai Lama (2012).
The Templeton Prize was established in 1972 by the late global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. It is a cornerstone of the Foundation’s international efforts to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to human purpose and ultimate reality.
Valued at about $1.7 million dollars or €1.5 million, the Prize is one of the world’s largest annual awards given to an individual. Jean Vanier gifted all of the prize money to L’Arche and Faith and Light, and through them to other organizations in financially poor countries who are working to lift up the lives and reveal the unique gifts of people with intellectual disabilities.