We would like to welcome you to share today in celebrating the presentation of the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion. This year is the ninth consecutive year in which the award has been made. This morning at Buckingham Palace His Royal Highness, Prince Philip graciously delivered to Dame Cicely Saunders this year’s prize of £90,000, silver medal, and the Scroll of Honour.
The prize is the largest annual prize of any kind given in the world. It is both a tangible and a symbolic reflection of our conviction that God’s work on earth takes precedence before all else. The goal of science has been to allow man first to understand his environment and then to deal with it. The goal of literature and art has been to heighten our sensitivity towards ourselves and others. The goal of peace is the creation of system to foster the creative energies of man.
God’s goal encompasses all of these and more. What we call religion is our attempt to realize his plan for us. The forms we use may differ, but we are united in a common yearning for God. The total thrust of our being reaches out for God. If we understand him imperfectly; if we fail to love and serve him as we should — nevertheless, this love, this understanding, this service — these are the reasons for our being.
Answers to questions of ‘why’ reach higher, further, and deeper than answers to questions of ‘how’ or ‘what’ could ever do. The answer as to ‘why we are here on earth’ is very simply, ‘to love’. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us ‘If I have the gift of prophecy, and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing’. In a modern world groping for answers, Dame Cicely Saunders is a stirring example of God’s love put into action.
Inherent in the creative energies God has bestowed on man is a commitment to progress. If we are to come close to being one with God, we need the vitality of new ideas and new words. God’s mission to us is to fulfill his plan, not yesterday, but today and tomorrow.
It is for this reason that the Prize for Progress in Religion was conceived. In fact, progress among God’s people is being made every day. Individuals and groups are striving in what they do and say to increase man’s love or understanding of God. This, then, is our theme — to focus on those individuals who have done the most to increase man’s love and understanding of God.
It is hoped that greater public recognition of the work of each recipient will lead to greater public involvement in similar matters of the Spirit. We live in a world-wide community based on trade, treaties, and travel. Such world-wide relationships are only transitory and opportunistic unless a devotion to God provides the foundation. The work of each recipient of the Templeton Prize is looked on as an essential building block in this foundation.
Just as we gather here today to honour the life-long work of Dame Cicely Saunders, we hope that we shall then go forth and spread the news of her work by our words, our actions, and the examples we set. In just this way the works of the previous recipients have spread and grown.
The recipient of the first Templeton Prize was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity. Each person who has studied her life and works is inspired and uplifted thereby. The judges selected Mother Teresa because she has given the world a new understanding of love. The second recipient was Brother Roger Schutz, founder of the Taize Community in France because of his breakthrough in revitalising religion among young people. The third year, Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishan, former President of India, was honoured for his many books helping Hindus to understand the Divine Creator of us all, and helping Westerners to learn the beautiful teachings of the Hindu prophets.
The fourth recipient was Cardinal Suenens for his leadership in the Charismatic movement. The fifth was Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement which helps hundreds of thousands each year to try to give love, even to the same extent as Christ gives love. The judges selected as the sixth recipient Professor Thomas Torrance of Edinburgh for his pioneering work in Religion and Science. In 1979 Mr. Nikkyo Niwano was selected for his leadership in the creation of Rissho Kosei-Kai and the World Conference on Religion and Peace.
Last year the recipient was Dr. Ralph Wendell Burhoe who is the founder and editor of the most influential journal on science and religion called ‘ZYGON’.
Dame Cicely Saunders is the first recipient from the medical profession. As we shall hear in a moment, her work has gone far beyond the traditional role of a doctor serving patients. She, in her work, has touched all of us as we deal with the reality of living and dying. She has taken our inadequacies in these areas and has produced instead a sense of fulfillment.
In conclusion, I would like to invite you to join us afterwards for tea in the Old Library which is behind the platform. We hope you will take this opportunity to meet Dame Cicely and to extend to her your own personal congratulations. For ourselves, we look forward to this time as a chance to learn from you your ideas for expanding the work of the Lord.
Thank you very much.