We of the Templeton Foundation welcome you to Rome and to the twenty-fourth annual presentation of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.
It is very exciting for us and for me, in particular, that Rome with its beautiful hills and pine trees, Rome which has seen many martyrs suffer and die so that the word of God would be brought to the gentiles, that this wonderful city is host to the 1996 Templeton Prize.
The Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion was established in 1972 by Sir John Templeton. The essence of the prize is in the name itself ‘Progress in Religion.’ To understand the prize we must understand the mind of John Templeton. To many, John Templeton is a close friend and neighbour; to others he is the world investment genius; to his grandchildren he is the grandfather who always has time to listen and give wise advice; to me, he is papa Templeton, my second father.
The pursuit of spirituality for John Templeton has always been one of the most important and yet most neglected disciplines. Feeling that the Nobel prizes had a blind spot and unfairly excluded religion from its disciplines, Sir John established a foundation that funds the Templeton Prize in perpetuity at a level guaranteed to exceed the Nobel Prizes. Currently, the prize is valued at 700,000 pounds sterling, over one million dollars. It is the largest annual monetary prize given, in order to suggest that spiritual progress is more important than progress in any other area. It is Templeton’s thought that the prize is not given for saintliness or good works. Instead it is given for new insights and originality which have fostered man’s love or understanding of God.
The Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion strives to stress the importance of diversity in religious beliefs and to increase sensitivity to varying religious thought. Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and the Jewish faiths have all been represented by prize recipients.
Originality is the foremost goal of the prize. A brief review of some of the prize recipients illustrates the focus of the prize: In 1985 Sir Alister Hardy was honoured for using scientific methods to investigate religious experiences. Billy Graham was honoured in 1982 for his genius in utilizing the power of broadcasting to share his religious message.
In 1994 Michael Novak was honoured for asserting that religious boundaries extend far beyond the confines of organized religion. Mr Novak brought religious thought into rarely associated realms of sports, poverty and the moral foundations of democracy. In 1978 Professor Thomas Torrance was honoured for his work in attempting to establish the evidence of God through scientific reasoning. Since the founding of the prize, there have been twenty-six recipients. Although there are no stipulations as to how the money is to be used, many winners have chosen to invest their prize in the very pursuits that brought them to the attention of the judges of the Prize Program.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the first winner of the Templeton Prize used her prize money to help fund the Missionaries of Charity and help homeless children in Calcutta.
Chiara Lubich, the winner in 1977, used part of the prize money to finance a maternity wing for a hospital in the Philippines, another part helped establish a ‘Town of Charity’ in Italy for people with disabilities.
Dame Cicely Saunders won the 1981 Templeton Prize for creating hospices dedicated to relieving physical and mental suffering in the terminally ill. Her prize money was used to construct a new wing at St Christopher’s Hospice founded by Dame Cicely.
Rt. Hon. Lord Jakobovits, the 1991 prize recipient donated his money to projects aimed at deepening spiritual awareness. Michael Novak, the recipient in 1994 directed his award in a number of directions among which is the establishment of a scholarship fund — The Novak-Templeton Fellowship — at his alma mater, Stonehill College in Massachusetts. Four scholarships are given each year, including one to a student from the Bahamas, in Honour of John Templeton, and one for a student from Slovakia, Novak’s family heritage. He also established a grant at Notre Dame College in Dacca, in honor of his brother, Richard, a missionary killed in a Hindu-Muslim riot in Dacca in 1964.
And so today we come together with you, all our friends to honor yet another recipient of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. Dr. Bill Bright is the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, one of the largest outreach ministries in the world. His dedication to spreading of the gospel of Jesus has made Bill Bright one of the most formidable evangelists in the world. Bill Bright follows well in the tradition of the prize for he set forth in an innovative way to follow the Biblical command ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’
We, the Templeton children, thank Papa Templeton for his vision and for teaching us the importance of spirituality in all that we say and do, we thank you our friends who have faithfully supported us through the years and we thank the people of Rome for their hospitality.
It would be remiss of me if I did not offer the sincere thanks and gratitude of the Foundation to His Eminence Cardinal Cassidy for presiding here tonight and to the Community of St. Egidio for the considerate work it has done in organising the ceremony, especially Mr. Saverio Sturm. And finally, it is a great honour for us to celebrate here in the Basilica Santa Maria Trastevere. We wish to express our thanks to Mgr. Vincenzo Paglia for so readily granting us permission.
Thank you one and all.