L’Arche founder Jean Vanier wins $1.7million Templeton Prize

Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche communities, has won the 2015 Templeton Prize, which is worth US$1.7million.

L’Arche is a global network of communities where those with and without developmental disabilities live side by side.

The network was begun in northern France in 1964 when Mr Vanier invited two intellectually disabled men to live with him as friends.

It has evolved into 147 L’Arche communities, in 35 countries.

A support group for families of people with disabilities, known as Faith and Light, has spread to 82 countries.

The Templeton Prize honours those who have made “exceptional contributions” to affirming the spiritual dimension of life.

Previous winners include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Dalai Lama and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Mr Vanier, who is a Catholic layman, said he will donate the prize money to his charities so they can expand their work internationally.

According to a Religion News Service report, Mr Vanier, 86, said that those with intellectual disabilities offer spiritual lessons and gifts to a world too driven by success and power.

“They are essentially people of the heart,” he said.

“When they meet others they do not have a hidden agenda for power or for success. Their cry, their fundamental cry, is for a relationship, a meeting heart to heart.

“It is this meeting that awakens them, opens them up to life, and calls them forth to love in great simplicity, freedom and openness.

“When those ingrained in a culture of winning and of individual success really meet them, and enter into friendship with them, something amazing and wonderful happens.

“They too are opened up to love and even to God. They are changed at a very deep level. They are transformed and become more fundamentally human.”

Mr Vanier has written 30 books on religion, normality, success and tolerance.

The Templeton Foundation, which awards the annual prize, was launched by the late Anglo-American financier and philanthropist, Sir John Templeton.


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