Members of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Your Eminence, Mr. Colson, Honored Guests.
In 1973 the first Templeton Prize was awarded. Founded by Sir John Templeton because of a concern for his own spiritual progress and a concern for the lack of acknowledgement by the world for contributions and advancements by different religious leaders in different parts of the world.
He saw the Prize as a vehicle to communicate. Although there were other prizes and recognition in other fields, there were none for God and spirituality. By making it the largest prize it would bring immediate recognition as well as help the recipient in the field of his or her religious pursuit.
Today we celebrate the twenty-first anniversary of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. Awarded annually the prize seeks to honour one who has contributed to humanity’s greater knowledge of God through originality or research in religion or spirituality. Selected by a panel of judges representing at least four major religions of the world, the winners have all exemplified the requisite qualities as stipulated by the trustees of the Templeton Foundation through their different works and life experiences.
The Prize is given to any living person of any creed, race, sex or geographical background. It encourages understanding of the benefits of diversity of religions because it believes there are a variety of ways that the creator is revealing himself to different people. Acceptance of this diversity will inspire and excite people to share and promote progress and understanding. People from all over the world will learn about the many ways people love and understand a supreme spirit.
Honouring these award winners has focused attention on the spiritual growth and progress that is going on in the world today. Learning about the work these recipients have accomplished to be so honored will affect millions of people by inspiring and uplifting them to further study, personal spiritual growth, and worship of God.
We are gathered here at a unique time. This week, this city of Chicago celebrates the centenary of the meeting of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Those meeting here this week have witnessed that they are part of a global community marked by religious pluralism, though they experience the urgency and quality of interfaith relations in different ways in their various communities.
It is our hope that interfaith dialogue may mean an ongoing conversation and encounter aimed at fostering mutual understanding and cooperation. In this way we can each be enriched in our own faith and thereby contribute to the quality of our conversations with each other.
As our forefathers did in this city 100 years ago, let us have a sense of urgency of our need for quality in our dialogue with one another and affirm our willingness to continue long after this week is over. Let us challenge our communities with the concrete challenges of the recipients of the Templeton Prize over the past 21 years. And let us continue to explore how to confess our faith in the ‘context of the many cultures and social conflicts in which we live’. Someone who cannot be with us today due to her illness, but whose presence will always be felt is Irene, Lady Templeton, wife of Sir John, Trustee of the Templeton Foundation, and my mother. It has been her studying, her spiritual growth and her worship of God throughout her life that has made her able to give to others the same love of God that has meant so much to her. She has enlightened and supported her husband and the Foundation since the idea for a prize was first conceived. Those of us who are fortunate enough to know her will remember with gratitude the beautiful smile, the ready warmth, and the love that is her radiance. This award is important to her because her relationship to God has been her life. So, we keep her in our prayers and think of her when the award is given, because she knows that whatever progress is made in life is determined by man’s greater knowledge of God.
Finally, may I on behalf of the Trustees personally thank the many people who have made this ceremony possible: The Trustees of the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel for permitting us to meet here; His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Bernardin for chairing the ceremony; the Reverend Dr. William Lesher for chairing the local committee; the Director and children of the Children’s Choir for participating and to Dr. Ghulam Haider Aasi and Dr. Chuen Phangcham for saying the prayers and to you who have come from near and far to be present to hear Mr. Chuck Colson the recipient for 1993 as he makes his acceptance address.
It is an honour for the Templeton Foundation to have this ceremony in the City of Chicago and on behalf of the officers and trustees, I wish again, to say a sincere thank you.