Michael Heller has won the 2008 Templeton Prize (820,000 pounds sterling)

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - March 13, 2008 6:14 pm

A Polish Catholic priest been awarded the Templeton Prize for advances in the study of religion and spirituality.


Father Michal Heller, a cosmologist on the faculty of the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow, was honored for his work in developing "sharply focused and strikingly original concepts on the origin and cause of the universe, often under intense governmental repression."


The 72-year-old priest has specialized in the study of questions about the origin of the universe. In a statement released as he accepted the Templeton prize, he explained the fundamental question:


"Why is there something rather than nothing?" When asking this question, we are not asking about a cause like all other causes. We are asking about the root of all possible causes.


Ordained to the priesthood in 1959, Father Heller became an enthusiastic participant in the active Catholic scholarly circles in Krakow in the 1960s, which operated in defiance of the Communist government's anti-intellectual policies. He was encouraged in his work by Krakow's Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, who persuaded government officials to allow Heller's first trips abroad to attend academic conferences.


The Templeton Prize carries a stipend of over $1.6 million: the richest award offered by any global prize. Father Heller has indicated that he plans to use the funds to build a "Copernicus Center" for study in science and theology, working in conjuction with the Pontifical Academy and the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.