The French-Canadian Catholic philosopher and humanitarian founded L’Arche (Ark) – a network of communities for people with development disabilities – in 1964. Today there are 147 L’Arche residential communities in 35 countries.

The Templeton Prize was established in 1972 by Sir John Templeton to reward those who pursue the ‘big questions of human purpose and ultimate reality’.

Granddaughter of Sir John Templeton, Jennifer Simpson, described Vanier as an ‘extraordinary man’.

She said, ‘By recognising the importance of every individual, regardless of their station in life, Jean Vanier underscores how each of us has the ability not only to lift up others, but also ourselves.’

Upon accepting the prize, Vanier said: ‘My dream for this magnificent prize you have given me, is for us to create spaces and opportunities for meetings which transform hearts.’

The prize will be awarded on 18th May 2015 at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London.

Previous recipients of the prize include Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Billy Graham.