Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche—an international network of communities where those with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together--has won the 2015 Templeton Prize, the Templeton Foundation announced March 11 at a news conference at the British Academy in London.
Vanier’s pioneering work in inclusiveness for the disabled began informally in northern France in 1964, when he invited two intellectually disabled men to live with him as friends. That led to the establishment of residential communities for those who might previously have been confined to institutions.
There are now 147 L’Arche communities in 35 countries, as well as more than 1,500 Faith and Light support groups in 82 countries, which also foster integration of the disabled. Vanier, 86, is the author of 30 books that have been translated into 29 languages, including The Heart of L’Arche (Novalis, 2012) and the 1999 bestseller, Becoming Human, now available in paperback from Paulist Press.
The Templeton Foundation calls the prize “a cornerstone of [our] international efforts to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to human purpose and ultimate reality.” Among the 44 past Templeton honorees are Mother Teresa, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Billy Graham.
In a statement responding to receiving the Templeton Prize, Vanier said, “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.”