Jean Vanier, the French-Canadian Catholic who founded L’Arche network of international communities that brings together people with and without learning disabilities to live and work each other, has received the Templeton Prize in London.
Valued at £1.1 million, the Templeton Prize rewards an individual who “has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.”
Mr Vanier, 86, was given the prize yesterday at a ceremony in the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields. He spoke about the work of L’Arche and a number of his colleagues helped laid a table for a feast and invited people with disabilities forward.
“People who are not endowed with intellectual gifts have … unique and marvelous gifts of the heart, and can open us to love in a special way,” he said after receiving the award, according to CatholicCulture.org.
“They are not crying out for advancement or knowledge or power, but simply for a personal relationship of love that will give them life and meaning.”
Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster Nicholas Hudson, who was present at the ceremony, said: “Jean explained the vision of L’Arche by recalling when Jesus said: ‘When you give a special meal, don’t invite your family and rich neighbours, so that they invite you back in return. No, when you give a meal, invite rather the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind: that they cannot repay your invitation means you will be blessed.’”
He continued: “The joy in the Church at the presence of so many people with disabilities reminded me why I love L’Arche. It’s because it announces the Kingdom: it opens our hearts to realise that when we share our lives with those whom society judges unworthy and useless, we are profoundly enriched. More than that: we experience communion; and discover a happiness we simply won’t find elsewhere.”
Mr Vanier founded L’Arche in 1964. According to a statement on the Templeton Prize website, Mr Vanier “supports a culture of belonging and social justice. He encourages and nurtures dialogue and unity among Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and other faiths through lectures, conferences and retreats around the world.”
Previous Templeton Prize winners include the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.