I am deeply honoured to be your Chairman today, the more particularly because, in this country we rightly put Church before State, and I represent only the State, or at least part of it.
The role of the State is limited. We can make laws about what people must or must not do and we can exact penal-ties or impose punishments if they do not conform.
But no legislation can make people kind, thoughtful or unselfish to one another or to have courage in the face of fear.
These are the great virtues which come from something far more profound than the actions of governments.
They have a deeply religious foundation — a faith that believes in the essential dignity and importance of each and every human being and that he has a purpose to fulfill here on earth.
Without that religious base, many of the qualities which we take so much for granted, truth, fairness, justice, tolerance, understanding would soon wither and die, like a flower cut off from its root.
But we do not have faith in our own particular religion just because of the social benefits that result.
I remember as a student reading some of C. S. Lewis’s books — books which had they been written recently would undoubtedly have found favour one year with your panel of judges. I remember the analogy he used.
That life is like a convoy of many ships. To sail without trouble, the ships had to stay in the right relationship with each other; but to do that each ship has to be in good order itself; and however well the fleet sailed it had to know where it was going.
And so morality seemed to be concerned with three things. Firstly, with fair play and harmony between individuals. Secondly, with harmonizing things outside each individual and thirdly and most important with the purpose of human life and the power that created it. It is this purpose which is the difference between those who have a faith and those who do not.
In the state, we define progress in the cold terms of statistics. In religion progress is far more difficult to elucidate, but perhaps less difficult to recognize.
To you, Mr. Templeton, we owe our continuing gratitude for your inspiration and your action in establishing the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion now to be awarded for the fourth time.
How right you were when you wrote that ‘there is a demand today for a deeper awareness of the dimension of the spirit and of the spiritual resources that are available to mankind.’
Recently we have had a similar powerful message on our television sets from Alexander Solzhenitsyn; a message which warned us that failures may be due more to lack of will than to surrounding circumstances; and that true progress would come from a spiritual revival rather than an economic recipe.
His own bravery has been chronicled and we marvel at it. But there must be many thousands of others, unknown heroes and heroines, who refused to yield their beliefs for experience; who show in their daily lives that indomitable spirit which is the hand of Providence.
There is much unhappiness in the world today arising from poverty, disease and ignorance and perhaps even more tragically from conflicts between tribes, ideologies and even religious faiths.
The challenge to statesmen and people alike is daunting. But in the Christian religion we are taught: ‘In the World we shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer.’
And so it was that our first prizewinner, Mother Teresa, went about the business of solving the problems which confronted her. All who have read her moving words or who know of her work have been refreshed and invigorated as they go about their own daily tasks. Such a giant of a person housed in such a tiny body.
Today, we are met to honour a great teacher, Cardinal Suenens, a man whose whole character exemplifies what he has described as ‘the living, serene faith’.
His biographer Elizabeth Hamilton writes of his openness, yet of his sense of sensibility to the traditions of the Church.
Sir, all your teachings, and books you have published over the years, stamp you as a theologian of great distinction and scholarship.
But it is for your latest work, A New Pentecost, its message and its inspiration, that the distinguished panel of judges has so rightly recommended that the Templeton Foundation present you with its fourth annual award.
Many in the past have applauded and welcomed your advocacy of Christian unity, your encouragement of the Ecumenical movement.
Many, too, have supported your endeavour to re-emphasize the potential and significance of the laity in Church affairs, and many in consequence have been enabled and encouraged to take a greater part in its activities.
Now, as a direct result of the clear and unmistakable message you have given, tens of thousands of individuals in a thousand different Catholic Churches have established groups which are devoted missionaries and witnesses of their faith.
No wonder then that Pope Paul in 1974 saw fit to warmly commend this work and to draw wide attention to it.
Historically, we know that great European civilizations have arisen and then declined.
Each has been dominated by people of great vigour and confidence. And then somehow, those qualities which gave that culture its vitality and inspiration seemed gradually to wither.
But it would be wrong to look at the history of Europe as a history of repeated decline. For each time, a new civilization arose. Rather it is a testimonial to the strength and inspiration of the human spirit.
No prison or captivity can confine it.
Its vitality will break through the shackles, and the great human endeavour revives and surges forward anew.
You give us, Cardinal Suenens, not only an example but a message and a sense of hope.
‘Be of good courage, the power of the Holy Spirit is at work deep within the heart of his Church, breathing into it a great youthfulness.
‘It is the spirit who is our living hope for the future.’