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“We are extremely proud of this recognition to one of our own, the revered Archbishop Tutu,” Zuma said.
“Even in his retirement, the archbishop continues to inspire our country and its people to do more every day to realise the universal goal of a better life for all. This honour is therefore well-deserved indeed.”
He is a ‘living model of the benefits of religion,’ the Templeton Foundation said.
Tutu was awarded the $1.7million prize for his lifelong work to promote “love and forgiveness”.
The Templeton Prize was conceived by American-born British stock investor Sir John Templeton, who felt the Nobel Prize recognised only the contribution of science to humanity, but failed to honour religion.
Desmond Tutu is the first black man to lead South Africa’s Anglican church.
The 81-year-old Nobel peace laureate, who rose to fame in the 1980s as a vocal opponent of apartheid and headed the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Tutu would be presented with the award at a ceremony in London next month.
The first winner of the Templeton prize was Mother Teresa in 1973.