Jean Vanier Receives 2015 Templeton Prize

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Jean Vanier receives the 2015 Templeton Prize from Heather Templeton Dill (left) and Jennifer Templeton Simpson (right) at the Templeton Prize ceremony at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, May 18, 2015.
(Photocredit: Templeton Prize: Paul Hackett)
Jean Vanier receives the 2015 Templeton Prize from Heather Templeton Dill (left) and Jennifer Templeton Simpson (right) at the Templeton Prize ceremony at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, May 18, 2015. (Photocredit: Templeton Prize: Paul Hackett)

A ceremony to honor the 2015 Templeton Prize Laureate, Jean Vanier, was held on May 18 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London. Vanier received the award, valued at £1.1 million (about $1.7 million or €1.5 million), from Heather Templeton Dill and Jennifer Templeton Simpson, daughters of the late Dr. John M. Templeton Jr., President and Chairman of the John Templeton Foundation. The occasion was celebrated alongside L’Arche residents and community and faith leaders from across the United Kingdom. A full video of the ceremony is available online.

What began quietly in northern France in 1964, when Vanier invited two intellectually disabled men to come and live with him as friends, has now grown into 147 L’Arche residential communities operating in 35 countries. More than 1,500 Faith and Light support groups in 82 countries that similarly urge solidarity among people with and without disabilities have also been established. “People with intellectual disabilities have unique gifts of the heart and can open us to love in a special way,” Vanier explains. “Isn’t it because so often they have been humiliated and pushed aside as useless? They are not crying out for advancement or knowledge or power, but simply for a personal relationship of love.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Dr. Sam Wells, the vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, said: “Many people look upon a developmentally-disabled person and see a shame to be shunned, a tragedy to be avoided, or a predicament to be fixed. But Jean Vanier, now for 50 years, has shown us a better way. He calls such people teachers of a way of love, heralds of a world of understanding, hosts of an ethic of solidarity.”

The Templeton Prize is one of the world’s largest annual awards given to an individual and honors a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension. Jean Vanier is the 45th laureate, joining previous winners including Tomáš Halík (2014), Desmond Tutu (2013), His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (2012), and Mother Teresa (1973). Nominations for the 2016 prize can be made online, and are due July 1, 2015.