(Vatican Radio) The 2015 Templeton Prize has been awarded to Jean Vanier, founder of the L'Arche communities for people living with intellectual disabilities.

The announcement, made at the British Academy on Wednesday, said the 86 year old Vanier was honoured for his powerful message that "love has the potential to change the world for the better, just as it has already changed the lives of countless individuals" who've been involved with the international L'Arche network. The movement has now grown to include 147 residential communities for people with and without disabilities.

The annual Templeton Prize is awarded to a person who makes an exceptional contribution to the practise or understanding of the spiritual dimension of life. Jean Vanier, who continues to live on the grounds of the original community, north of Paris, will be presented with the prize at the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London on March 18th.

When he founded L'ARCHE in France in 1964, Vanier, now 86, discovered that those people whom society typically considers of least value, enable the strong to recognize and welcome their own vulnerability and to grow in their humanity. Five years later, the first Canadian community, L'ARCHE Daybreak, was founded in Richmond Hill, Ontario. In 1972, Vanier co-founded Faith and Light, which is now a world-wide network supporting families with members who have an intellectual disability. Worldwide, there are now 147 L'ARCHE communities in 35 countries on 5 continents. Twenty-nine communities are in Canada, spread from Comox Valley, BC, to Cape Breton, NS.

Vanier has written and spoken tirelessly over more than 50 years, encouraging social justice, dialogue and unity among Christians and those of others faiths. He continues to live in the original L'ARCHE community, north of Paris, and will formally be awarded the Templeton Prize at a public ceremony in London, England on Monday, May 18, 2015. 

Pope Francis, Vanier says, has been a huge encouragement through his attitude of encountering disabled people or those living on the periphery of society and urging us to listen and learn from them.