Press Toolkit

Testimonials from Leading Figures

"Transcending Faith and Culture"

Timothy Shriver, Chairman & CEO, Special Olympics
Vanier is internationally honored as a humanitarian, an ecumenical moral and spiritual leader, and a social visionary recognized around the world for his message of Peace.

Dr. Rowan Williams, 104th Archbishop of Canterbury (2003-2012), Theologian, and Poet
Transcending faith and culture to speak with transforming possibility into the experience of the most vulnerable human persons, without ignoring the darkness and suffering that this entails, and lifting spirits and lives across continents in the process, is not only no mean achievement, especially for a truly humble man; it is utterly extraordinary.

Dr. Balfour Mount, Prof. Emeritus, Medicine & Palliative Care, McGill University
Jean is a man of towering intellect, global vision and impressive insight.  His integrity is immediately evident on first meeting him, as are his gentleness and deep humility.  To encounter Jean Vanier is to confront our human potential for thoughtfulness, compassion and sparkling joy in living. 

Prof. Heather Eaton (Theology), Saint Paul University
Dr. Vanier is a man of immense and consistent integrity, with a vast international reputation and stature.  Yet he remains is a humble, kind and unassuming man, offering each person dignity and deep respect.  
He is the leader of a movement that has resulted in the liberation of thousands of people’s lives.

Prof. Emeritus Bryan Massam, (Geography), York University
Jean Vanier is a leader in consciousness-raising about the suffering of all who are marginalized. He is internationally recognized for his compelling vision of what it means to live a fully human life and for his social and spiritual leadership in building a compassionate society

Prof. Hank Bersani (Special Education), Western Oregon University
His influence extends well beyond the US and the so called "first world".
His is a world-view that can only be created by a Nobel peace prize nominee calibre leader .

"His Vision and Inspiration"

Prof. Luther Smith (Theology), Emory University
Vanier developed an approach that inspired individuals, governments, religious institutions, and social agencies to embrace the establishment of caring community as the most holistic approach for healing the alienation experienced by persons with mental disabilities in society.
Vanier’s L’Arche communities have become instructive models for the process by which societies can realize their dreams for true community.
As persons become aware of Jean Vanier’s work they are not just interested in honoring him but also in discovering how they might also establish caring relationships with the vulnerable.

Prof. Joseph Tadie (Philosophy), Saint Mary’s University, Minnesota
Vanier is our model and guide in our endeavor to live lives of association with the poor; he teaches our minds and touches our hearts and helps us to gently wear down the walls that we have inherited from our culture and society about those who dwell on the ‘other’'', less-fortunate, side of life.
Jean Vanier has inspired people from across the globe to join him in what he once called a “gentle revolution...where the powerful are dethroned and the weak uplifted; where enemies are pardoned and barriers fall, where armaments are dismantled."

Prof. Lisa Cataldo (Religion & Pastoral Counselling), Fordham University
Vanier’s vision is radical in its simplicity and in its challenge. It is nothing more or less than the challenge to create peace by becoming human. I can think of no other vision that captures better what this world needs right now.

Prof. Tom Reynolds, (Theology), University of Toronto
Vanier offers a vision that is interreligious in stretch.  The message of neighbourly love and hospitality for stranger is the moral heartbeat of many of the world’s great faith traditions
the work of Vanier symbolizes hope for a more inclusive and human future. 
Vanier’s gentle wisdom is an uncommon gift for humanity in a time of uncertainty, conflict, and peril.
For over 50 years, his extraordinary vision and work have helped countless people across the globe find their way into love and life. 
Vanier’s way of living with and caring for some of the weakest and most vulnerable in society—i.e., people with intellectual disabilities—stands as a ray of light and hope in the world.  

Prof. Christine Pohl (Theology & Social Ethics), Asbury Seminary
Vanier's influence is global and it operates primarily at the personal and interpersonal level.
His insights are seminal to current conversations and to efforts aimed at building small communities of hope and healing
Dr. Vanier’s long term commitment to forming small communities that bear witness to peace, hope and wholeness is a vision and a reality worth celebrating, emulating, and honoring.
He has been a model and inspiration to countless thousands of people who long to help build a world in which the most vulnerable among us experience wholeness and full membership in community.

Dr. Balfour Mount, Prof. Emeritus, Medicine & Palliative Care, McGill University
…the examples Jean has given the world through L’Arche, Faith and Light, and Intercordia are beacons of hope for a world on the edge.

"A Man of the Heart"

Dr. Balfour Mount, Prof. Emeritus, Medicine & Palliative Care, McGill University
What impressed me most...was to see how he looked at the individuals to whom he was talking.  Here was radical presence!  It seemed to me that he looked, not at their persona, but straight into their Deep Centre.  I had never seen anyone look at another like that.  Here was a true healer! 

Prof. Tom Reynolds, (Theology), University of Toronto
His lack of pretence, his simple and heartfelt way of being with people, makes hospitality real.
Prof. Richard Kearney, Charles B. Seelig Professor in Philosophy, Boston College
A living philosophy if ever there was one, a philosophy of the flesh, of the heart, of testimony, of caritas.

Mr. Bernie Farber, C.E.O. & Past President, Canadian Jewish Congress
In the Jewish tradition we speak of an individual like Jean Vanier as being a "mensch".  This is a special honour recognizing the unique qualities of a man who has devoted so much of his life to help those whose lives are filled with unique challenges. Our sages tell us, "he whose deeds exceed his wisdom is like a tree whose branches are few but whose roots are many. Even if all the winds of the world come and blow upon it, they cannot move it from its place." Jean Vanier has through his wisdom and deeds ensured the roots of tolerance, decency and understanding have been well planted.

Prof. Hank Bersani (Special Education), Western Oregon University
Jean's leadership is not political, it is not economic, it is not academic or scientific….His leadership is of the heart and soul.

Rev. Prof. Emeritus Frances Young (Theology), sometime Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology & Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Birmingham, UK
…in his presence I have seen people grow in stature and confidence
The extraordinary thing ….is his capacity for attention, his concentration on whoever is with him…and his ability to draw out their best qualities, to show them that they are valuable and have gifts to give to others, no matter how weak or small they may be.  This is the healing quality that makes it possible for people to receive peace from him, and so become peacemakers.

"A Messenger and His Practical Experience"

Prof. Tom Reynolds, (Theology), University of Toronto
His is a life that embodies what it proclaims.
His message is not about abstract ideas, but about living in relationships with people.

The Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams, Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Theologian, and Poet
We need people who know what it is to live, not without fear, but unafraid…
…in a world that knows how to divide and feel divided we need people who know how to live as one, to embrace diversity, to enjoy and help others enjoy the beauty of our common humanity.
We not only need people like Jean Vanier who have learned to understand the anxiety of being human and fragile, but also the joy of being human and fragile.
If people are to make the choice against violence in their lives,  both those who live precariously, and those who are used to power and wealth, they need to know what peace, reconciliation and human flourishing – especially in the most unpromising circumstances – looks like.

Prof. Christine Pohl (Theology & Social Ethics), Asbury Seminary
The combination of his training in moral theology and his practical experience of community life has resulted in writings that are both wise and profound.
His insights into power, welcome, recognition, peacemaking, and community are deep and challenging but never sentimental.  Because he lives what he writes about, he acknowledges and addresses the persistent barriers to peace and reconciliation.

The Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar, St. Martin in the Fields, London.  Formerly Dean of the Chapel, Duke University
And now he is old.  When he came to the Duke Chapel I had to hold his arm as he ascended and descended the steps and made his way down the aisle.  Yet he embodies and represents a greater power than I have ever known in any other living person.
...most radical….a person whose witness for peace asks more and gives more than any other contemporary figure

Lieutenant-General Hon. Roméo A. Dallaire, (retired), Senator
He is a messenger of peace through his public speaking and writing.

"Universal Message"

Prof. Heather Eaton (Theology), Saint Paul University
In the realm of religion and religious conflict, it is my experience that Dr. Vanier’s approach enables people to overcome their differences and to join efforts for a common good

Timothy Shriver, Chairman & CEO, Special Olympics
Jean Vanier’s inspirational work is for all humanity, including people with intellectual disabilities.  In a world where we fear differences and misunderstand each other, where our religions all too often distrust one another, Jean Vanier has used faith and values to build peace and to discover the best in all of humanity.

Professor Hans S. Reinders (Ethics), Faculty of Theology, VU University, Amsterdam
It is simple – the simple principle of being present to one another – and yet it in its simplicity, the foundational principle of L’Arche has become a sign of peace in the wider world.

Prof. Marc Dumas (Theology), University of Sherbrooke
Les Arches sont des lieux concrets, tant dans les pays développés que dans les pays émergeants, tant dans les pays chrétiens que dans les pays où d’autres religions sont présentes, qui prouvent qu’il est possible de créer un monde de paix.

Prof. Hank Bersani (Special Education), Western Oregon University
…those who see his work as addressing intellectual disability have missed the point

"Vulnerability and Peace"

Prof. Stanley Hauerwas (Theology), Duke University
In a world in which religious and ideological convictions pose threats of violence in the name of security, Jean Vanier stands as a beacon helping us all to see and better understand what peace looks like.
I am a theologian committed to the practice of Christian nonviolence. As one so committed I’m often challenged to state where such nonviolence actually exists. For many years I’ve directed those who ask this question to the work of Jean Vanier. 

Hon. Michael Ignatieff, P.C., M.P., Former Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
His philosophy of community with the disabled speaks powerfully to his rejection of the barriers that stand to divide us. Indeed, there is no “us” in the communities that make up L’Arche, and there is no “them.” There is only the pursuit of peace, taken up by those who are weak and vulnerable, whether they are disabled or not.

Prof. Heather Eaton (Theology), Saint Paul University
Dr. Vanier has spent his life teaching how we can learn to be people of peace, attending to these complex inner and social forces that impede peace.
Unlike others who simply talk of peace, Dr. Vanier committed himself to learning, observing, living and teaching the ways of peace.

Prof. Lisa Cataldo (Religion & Pastoral Counselling), Fordham University
Vanier realized that true peace, both internal and external, cannot be found in exercises of power, but rather is embodied in the mutual vulnerability of human beings who all share the desire to be valued, to be loved, and to belong.
For Vanier, peace begins “one heart at a time.”

Lieutenant-General Hon. Roméo A. Dallaire, (retired), Senator
L'Arche communities are not only places of compassion and justice but are also laboratories for learning peacemaking skills. 

Prof. Emmanuel Katongole (Theology), Duke University Centre for Reconciliation
Jean Vanier and the L’Arche movement he has inspired point to the gifts of gentleness as well as the everydayness that makes community and thus the search for peace possible.

Mr. Arthur Labatt, former Chancellor, University of Western Ontario    
In l’Arche communities, a world of inclusion and peace is built by everyone.

Prof. Kevin Reimer (Psychology), Azusa Pacific University
Vanier sanctions peace as the grand invitation to relationship. It is welcome extended with anticipation that difference is where shared humanity is discovered and celebrated. 
...the political meaning of peace is realized through embrace of those who are disabled, weak, and rejected. Invitation and welcome oblige encounter with personal frailty that makes peace a real possibility.

Professor Hans S. Reinders (Ethics), Faculty of Theology, VU University, Amsterdam
To live peacefully, Vanier teaches, requires that we recognize our own capacity for violence. 

Prof. Tom Reynolds, (Theology), University of Toronto
For Vanier, the antidote to violence is not peace through strength and security, which shuns or hides weakness based on fear, but peace through shared vulnerability.

Timothy Shriver, Chairman & CEO, Special Olympics
Vanier quickly realized that, with the weakest members at the centre, L’Arche communities are not only places of compassion and justice, but also are laboratories for learning peacemaking skills. 
The message of Jean Vanier and of L’Arche is profoundly original, cutting to the heart of what prevents peace.  Relationships with those who are poor or disabled show us the way to defuse within ourselves and around us the causes of conflict:  fear of difference, violence, and the search for power and wealth. 

Prof. Joseph Tadie (Philosophy), Saint Mary’s University, Minnesota
Vanier allowed himself to become vulnerable to the guidance of two marginalized men. He was led down into his own weakness and confronted with his own emotional walls. Once those walls were deconstructed, many others were drawn to the unmistakably authentic peace that was left in their place.

Rev. Prof. Emeritus Frances Young (Theology), sometime Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology & Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Birmingham, UK
At the heart of Jean’s thinking is the recognition that peace means an ability to welcome those who are different.

"Joy"

Professor Hans S. Reinders (Ethics), Faculty of Theology, VU University, Amsterdam
I have visited L’Arche communities in various parts of the world, and have always been struck by the sheer joy of the people living there, despite the many difficulties they often face in their daily lives.  

"Dignity of the Person"

Rev. Dr. Gerald A. Arbuckle, S.M., Martin D’Arcy Memorial Lecturer, Campion Hall, Oxford & Co-director, RPD Social Research Unit, Sydney 
Jean Vanier has been able to highlight the dignity of all peoples, no matter what race or religion they come from, especially those with learning disabilities.

James Towey, President, Ave Maria University, Florida
Jean Vanier has brought peace by affirming and safeguarding the human dignity of the disabled while prophetically challenging society to recognize our need for relationship with them.


Prof. Joseph Tadie (Philosophy), Saint Mary’s University, Minnesota
Vanier has already been gently, quietly, and lovingly calling people of many diverse backgrounds and faiths to share in a way of life where the walls that divide us from the marginalized are deconstructed on a daily basis, in acts as simple as a shared smile, a held hand, or a patient walk.
Vanier has noted, “To walk with the poor is to go against the current of society. To work for them-even to fight for their rights and to raise them into the normality of society-can be part of a culture. But simply to live with them, to share their lives or to create community with them is not!”

Timothy Shriver, Chairman & CEO, Special Olympics
People with developmental disabilities are the weakest and most marginalized of people in all societies today, and they suffer greatly because of that marginalization.  Without a voice, they are victims of rejection, violence, and exclusion.
L’Arche communities worldwide offer a haven of peace and a place where those with a disability are able to grow and develop to their full potential, have their own projects and interests, and make a contribution to society.
Recognizing the suffering and isolation of families of people who have disabilities, Jean Vanier responded again concretely and with compassion by co-founding Faith and Light.  This organization has been particularly welcomed in countries where there are no public services for people with disabilities, offering them and their families support and hope. 
The message of L’Arche transcends the world of disability.    

"Becoming Human"

Rev. Dr. Gerald A. Arbuckle, S.M., Martin D’Arcy Memorial Lecturer, Campion Hall, Oxford &   Co-director, RPD Social Research Unit, Sydney 
He teaches us that everyone has a gift of life to offer the world, in fact those with learning disabilities can be significant teachers because they call us to acknowledge the vulnerability within each of us. The more we discover this the more we realize how much we need one another – surely a foundation for lasting peace.

Prof. Tom Reynolds, (Theology), University of Toronto
His leadership and vision reflect a deep spirituality of healing and community that is rooted in Christian faith but which cut across many faith traditions to touch something profound in the human spirit: the capacity that human fragility and weakness have to empower relationships of mutual giving and receiving, cultivating the deepest currents of solidarity and love.
He invites those in his presence to “become human”, not as an expert academic but as a fellow human being who is also “becoming human”. 
Vanier’s is a call to inclusive community.
Vanier summons us to a vulnerable communion.
Genuine healing happens here, not in miraculous cures, but through mutual respect, care, and love.  Paradoxically, vulnerability becomes a source of strength and wholeness, a place of reconciliation and communion with others. 

Prof. Kevin Reimer (Psychology), Azusa Pacific University
In an unexpected inversion, previously marginalized disabled are considered teachers—challenging others to live peaceably in authentic relationships. 
Taken from K. Reimer’s book « Living L’Arche: Stories of Compassion, Love, and Disability » (Continuum, 2009). Please cite book if this quote is used

Prof. Christine Pohl (Theology & Social Ethics), Asbury Seminary
In creating and inspiring communities that recognize the centrality and contribution of the most vulnerable persons, Dr. Vanier has helped us see that strength and weakness are complexly related and that both can contribute to a shared life that is beautiful and life-giving.

Prof. Richard Kearney, Charles B. Seelig Professor in Philosophy, Boston College
His message and charism operate from the ground up, from person to person, from interiority to interiority, from one single wounded human being to another
that the deep humanity which unites us is more powerful than the differences which cause violence.

Prof. Emmanuel Katongole (Theology), Duke University Centre for Reconciliation
one of Jean Vanier’s most memorable insights is his assertion that what the weak and poor require of us is not so much to do things for them, as to sit at the same table with them.

Prof. Heather Eaton (Theology), Saint Paul University
His teachings bring people together.  His abundance of compassion for human suffering softens people, allows them to let down barriers and open up, and become more honest and aware of those who suffering around them.

Lieutenant-General Hon. Roméo A. Dallaire, (retired), Senator
Key to Jean Vanier's work is his conviction that every person has gifts to share with others, and that in some way the marginalized person - someone with a developmental disability for instance - is particularly important and indeed prophetic in our individualistic and competitive world. 

Prof. Lisa Cataldo (Religion & Pastoral Counselling), Fordham University
When we begin to view our own burdens with compassion, we begin to open to the other with the same compassion. In this way, we create the possibility of becoming human together – humbly, honestly, and peacefully

Rev. Prof. Emeritus Frances Young (Theology), sometime Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology & Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Birmingham, UK
….Jean’s remarkable ability to move to wider insights, which bear upon the human condition in general and the conditions for humanity to live together in peace, form the particular experience of living with persons with learning disabilities.
He would never claim any great achievement for himself, yet there can be no doubt that his work has produced a kind of ‘prophetic sign’, pointing to new possibilities for the global human community.

Pamela Wallin, Canadian Senator
Jean Vanier believes that the human heart must be liberated from fear so that we may begin to discover our common humanity.

"Reconciliation"

Prof. William Gaventa, Director, Summer Institute on Theology and Disability
"...his work has been a call to a profound re-examination of the usual understandings of  strength, power, and knowledge, and the ways in which human identity is in fact warped when we do not recognize our own weakness, vulnerability, and limits..."

Lieutenant-General Hon. Roméo A. Dallaire, (retired), Senator
Jean Vanier and l'Arche hold a set of values that contrast radically with the values of today's societies, which for the most part are founded on competition and the search for power.  

Prof. Kevin Reimer (Psychology), Azusa Pacific University
Reconciliation and healing in L’Arche aren’t indexed by economic productivity, competitive advantage, or status. Peace happens where disabled and caregivers together learn that difference solicits knowledge that all are broken; yet remain worthy of unqualified respect.  Taken from K. Reimer’s book « Living L’Arche: Stories of Compassion, Love, and Disability » (Continuum, 2009). Please cite book if this quote is used