NEW YORK -- Anglican priest Michael Bourdeaux, head of Britain's Keston College, today won the prestigious 1984 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion for helping keep religion alive in communist East Europe.
The Templeton Foundation announced its 12th annual award of some $210,000 at the Church Center for the United Nations. Bourdeaux, 49, will receive the prize from Britain's Prince Philip at a ceremony in London's historic Guildhall May 15.
The citation said Bourdeaux, founder and general director of the Keston College Center for the Study of Religion and Communism in Kent, England, 'has developed one of the most crucial links in religious freedom between East and West.'
'Michael Bourdeaux has stabbed awake the conscience of comfortable western Christians,' the announcement said.
Last year the award, which over the years has earned the reputation of a 'Nobel Prize for Religion,' went to exiled Soviet writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
Bourdeaux 'has also highlighted the suffering of those in exile, prison or psychiatric hospitals and has given a strong injection of hope to those who have shown the costly witness to the truth.'
He 'has devoted his ministry to helping Christians in the Eastern Bloc countries strengthen their faith through a network of channels with Christians in other countries and by highlighting in the West the plight of eastern Christians under persecution,' the announcement said.
John M. Templeton, 72, a Presbyterian layman and leading mutual fund manager with links to theological education, founded and financed the award.
In his words, the award is 'the world's largest annual prize aimed at stimulating the knowledge of love of God on the part of mankind anywhere.'
The first recipient in 1973 was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who later also got the Nobel Peace Prize. Other winners include the former president of India Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, Cardinal Joseph Suenens of Brussels and American evangelist Billy Graham.
Bourdeaux, born in Cornwall, educated at Oxford and a one-time exchange student at Moscow University, was ordained in 1960.
Among judges selecting the recipients of the award are Mrs. Anwar Sadat, widow of the former president of Egypt, Sir Lynden Pindling, the prime minister of the Bahamas, Dr. Nagendra Singh, the Indian member of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Lord Coggan, former Archbishop of Canterbury.