This evening, The Templeton Foundation makes the first award of its Prize for Progress in Religion. The Foundation inaugurated this programme in the historic church of Saint Bride in Fleet Street in May of last year in the hope that this programme will contribute toward increasing man’s love of God and man’s knowledge of God. Also, it is the hope of the Foundation that the Prize will release new and creative energies into society through better under-standing of the meaning of life and a greater emphasis on the kind of dedication that brings people more into concert with the Divine Will.
God is revealing more of himself to me in many ways. We see this in God’s continual creation of the atoms and the galaxies. We see it in the new experience of men and in the discoveries of scientists.
It is not surprising that men on different continents make different discoveries in their long search to understand more of God’s infinite nature. Men are finding new ways to worship God — new ways to open their hearts to receive and radiate God’s infinite love. We should rejoice in this rich diversity. Surely we can learn from each other.
The Templeton Foundation seeks to award its Prize each year to a person who has helped to increase our love of God, or our understanding of God. Qualities sought in awarding the Prize are originality, inspiration, creativity, innovation and effectiveness. Such contribution may involve a study, or a life, or the inspiration of a new movement in religion. Examples of this can be seen in pioneering and innovative study, in new forms of worship and devotion and in the fashioning of new and effective methods of communicating faith. Also, within the criteria for the Prize, are the creation of new structures of understanding about the relationship of God to the universe, to the physical sciences or to the life sciences.
While the Prize has been conceived in the West with its mainly Christian tradition, persons who are representative of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism are also among the judges. Worthy candidates are nominated and considered for the Prize each year, from each of the world’s major faiths. We know the differing theological language and doctrine between our various traditions; yet we also know that as we meet together we can be renewed within our respective traditions in our commitment to our Creator. Together we hope to share our common humanity and dignity and to express our common concern for man’s spiritual well being. From a Christian point of view, this working together implies neither a denial of the uniqueness of Christ nor any loss of the Christian’s own commitment to Christ, but rather a genuine Christian approach to others in a human, personal, spiritual and humble way.
Progress is needed in religion as in all other dimensions of human experience and endeavour. It is imperative that progress in religion be accelerated as progress in other dimensions takes place. A wider universe demands a deeper awareness of the spirit and of spiritual resources available to man, of the immensity of God, and of God’s infinite love. Personally, I am deeply grateful to each of the nine judges who have been painstaking in their consideration of the nominees. From their several spiritual traditions, the judges reached their decision, and tonight we honour their choice. I am also grateful to the Lord Mayor and Corporation of London for welcoming us to this historic city. I am grateful to His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, for presenting this year’s prize to Mother Teresa of Calcutta.