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Priest who fought for religious liberty during Soviet occupation awarded prize

By on Thursday, 13 March 2014

Templeton Prize Laureate Tomáš Halík
(Templeton Prize / Tony Isbitt)

Templeton Prize Laureate Tomáš Halík (Templeton Prize / Tony Isbitt)

A Czech Catholic priest and philosopher has won the 2014 Templeton Prize.

Winner Fr Tomáš Halík, who risked imprisonment for illegally advancing religious and cultural freedoms after the Soviet invasion of his country, has been awarded £1.1 million.

The prize is one of the world’s largest annual awards given to an individual and honours a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.

Condemned by his nation’s communist government as an “enemy of the regime” in 1972, Halík, 65, spent nearly two decades organizing and building an extensive secret network of academics, theologians, philosophers and students dedicated to cultivating the intellectual and spiritual underpinnings for the democratic state he and others envisioned.

Those years of groundwork and counselling to liberation leaders such as Václav Havel and Cardinal František Tomášek helped Czechoslovakia transition to democracy following the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989.

Since that time, Msgr. Prof. Tomáš Halík has advocated religious tolerance and understanding through his writings and lectures by sharing ideas and beliefs among followers of widely varying cultural and spiritual traditions and, notably, non-believers.

His approaches to interfaith dialogue include proposing that the long intellectual tradition of Catholicism well positions it as a bridge among diverse Western secularism, traditional religions and Islamic culture. At a press conference, Halík announced that he will continue those efforts with the proceeds from the Prize.

Read Ed West’s interview with Mgr Halík in next week’s Catholic Herald.