Jean Vanier at the Templeton Prize ceremony on May 18, 2015

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Templeton Prize ceremony

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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)

2015 Templeton Prize Laureate Jean Vanier celebrates the Feast of L’Arche with L’Arche community members and faith leaders at the Templeton Prize ceremony at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, May 18, 2015. (Photocredit: Templeton Prize: Paul Hackett)

2015 Templeton Prize Laureate Jean Vanier celebrates the Feast of L’Arche with L’Arche community members and faith leaders at the Templeton Prize ceremony at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, May 18, 2015.
(Photocredit: Templeton Prize: Paul Hackett)

WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. – Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, a revolutionary international network of communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers, has won the 2015 Templeton Prize.

L’Arche encourages people toward mutually transformative relationships, where those who help are transformed by those they encounter. Vanier discovered that those people who society typically considers the weakest enable the strong to recognize and welcome their own vulnerability.

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, and more than 1,500 Faith and Light support groups in 82 countries that similarly urge solidarity among people with and without disabilities.

Vanier, 86, has extended his advocacy of belonging and social justice, with years of leadership efforts across the globe to nurture dialogue and unity among Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and other faiths through lectures, conferences and retreats around the world. His scholarship includes more than 30 books translated into 29 languages.

Valued at £1.1 million (about $1.7 million or €1.5 million), the 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, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works. The announcement was made at a news conference today at the British Academy in London by the John Templeton Foundation, based in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. The Prize is a cornerstone of the Foundation’s international efforts to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to human purpose and ultimate reality.

Vanier’s five decades of living with deeply vulnerable people have led him to an understanding of weakness and common humanity. This learned wisdom reflects the essence of the Big Questions that have become a hallmark of the Prize and continue the legacy of its founder Sir John Templeton, the late global investor and philanthropist, in encouraging and recognizing spiritual progress. In videos available on the Prize website, www.templetonprize.org, Vanier examines topics including the potential transformative power revealed through the practice and struggle of love, and “What does it mean to be fully human?”

“To become fully human is to let down the barriers, to open up and discover that every person is beautiful. Under all the jobs you’re doing, responsibilities, there is you,” Vanier answers, adding, “And you, at the heart of who you are, you’re somebody also crying out, ‘does somebody love me?’ Not just for what I can do, but for who I am.”

In remarks prepared for today’s announcement, 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.”

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