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The award was first given in 1988 to Cardinal Pio Laghi, then Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States. Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, was next, followed by Mother Mary Rose Schulte (1990), foundress of the congregation of the Sister Servants of Christ the King.
In 1991, the award committee chose representatives from the three monotheistic religions in response to Pope John Paul II’s appeal to members of these faiths to work together. The winners that year were Professor Donald W. Mitchell, a Christian and Director of the Religious Studies Program of Purdue University, Norma Levitt, Jewish, has served as an international president of the World Conference on Religions and Peace, and Dawud Assad who is active in the Muslim World League in the area of interreligious dialogue.
The following recipients were Professor Abe Masao, recognized for his work in the field of Christian-Buddhist dialogue; Vivian Juan, representative of the Tekakwitha Conference of the Native American community; Rev. Diane Kessler, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches;
Rabbi Jack Bemporad, recognized for his endeavors to promote Christian-Jewish dialogue; Cardinal John O’Connor, Archbishop of New York; Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, leader of the American Muslim Society; and Dr. Paul A. Crow, Jr., then President of the Council on Christian Unity of the Disciples of Christ.
One Luminosa Award for Unity was presented in Hollywood to Jack Shea, veteran Hollywood producer and President of the Directors Guild of America, and to his wife, Pat Shea, a successful writer. They have worked to bring together directors, producers, script writers and actors who want to convey positive values through their work.
In the year 2001, on a very special celebration on the 4th of July, the Luminosa Award for Unity has been conferred to His Royal Highness Lukas Njifua Fontem, the Fon of Fontem, Cameroun, for his outstanding work in leading his own people and others as well towards unity.
In 2002: Dr. Shantilal Somaiya, chairman of the K.J. Somaiya Trust, in Bombay, India, received the award for his contribution to fostering unity in diversity through education.
In 2003: Bishop Henrik Svenungsson, Swedish-Lutheran emeritus bishop of Stockholm, and a pioneer of ecumenism between the Swedish Church and the Catholic Church, received the award for his longstanding efforts to build fraternal relations with members of different Christian traditions.
2004: Reverend Nichiko Niwano, President of the Buddhist Movement Rissho Kosei-kai, Japan received the Luminosa Award for his fruitful efforts in interreligious cooperation that promoted world peace.
2005: Senator Douglas Roche, Special Adviser to the Holy See for disarmament and former Canadian Ambassador to the U.N. received the Luminosa Award for his longtime effort to further the cause of peace.
2006: The recipient was Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, for his tireless dedication to dialogue and the promotion of unity in diversity.
2008: The recipient was Dr. Anthony J. Cernera, president of the Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT and president of the International Federation of Catholic Universities.
2010: The recipients were Howard and Rose Belcher. Among the first families of the Focolare in North America who have given an outstanding contribution to universal brotherhood through the promotion of a lifestyle of unity beginning with the basic unit of society, the family.