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UnivForum 2025

UnivForum 2025

Citizens of Our World

What is a citizen? Though we seem to be more and more interconnected in our globalized age, we seem to have lost the true meaning of the term.

The ancients give us a key insight: citizen means nothing without the common good, and the common good means nothing without virtueAs Aristotle explains in his Politics, “man is by nature a political animal.” But such a statement rests on the entire project of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, which argues that man’s true happiness is found in the virtuous life. Thus, man’s individual good is bound up in the collective. “It is clear that every community aims at some good,” Aristotle elaborates in the Politics. “And the community which has the most authority of all and includes all the others aims highest, that is, at the good with the most authority. This is what is called the city-state or political community".

But what happens when communities lose sight of their primary task? They crumble. Nearly 300 years after Aristotle wrote his famous treatises in Athens, the model democratic Greek city-state, the Roman statesman Cicero watched his own Roman Republic descend into chaos. Rather than despair, however, Cicero composed perhaps his most famous work: De Amicitia, dedicated to his friend Titus Pomponius —who had taken the name “Atticus” due to his love for Greece and Athens, where he studied with Cicero.

UnivForum 2025

While Cicero was heavily influence by Aristotle, De Amicitia takes a further step in explaining why friendship is essential in leading man to his true end. “I am inclined to think that, with the exception of wisdom, no better thing has been given to man by the immortal gods,” he states. While Aristotle aims to explore how friendship relates to happiness —distinguishing between friendships of pleasure, utility, and virtue— Cicero aims to move readers towards becoming good friends. “Friendship was given to us by nature as the handmaid of virtue, not as a comrade of vice; because virtue cannot attain her highest aims unattended, but only in union and fellowship with another,” he explains. “Such a partnership as this, whether it is, or was, or is yet to be, should be considered the best and happiest comradeship along the road to nature's highest good".

Building on Aristotle’s insights, Cicero’s praise of friendship gives us the roadmap: the common good is brought about via one’s personal relationships. Thus, to be citizens of our world starts with being a good son, a good brother, a good father and a good friend.

The classics also show us underpinnings of solidarity, one of the bedrock principles of Catholic Social Teaching and a key aspect of how we hope UNIV 2025 can approach the theme of citizenship. As Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si:

"The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. In this way, they make their own that trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted in them when they were created. Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity (n. 240)".

Today, it can seem like our polarized postmodern world leaves no room for real dialogue on the common good. But going to the roots reveals the opportunity: if the common good is built on the foundations of family and friendship, and true solidarity is found in authentic relationships, what does that mean for the way we live out our citizenship? What kind of virtues and examples are needed to promote the common good in our world? How can we grow in?

Join us in 2025, so that, with your participation in the different activities of the Forum (Communications, UnivTube, Social Initiatives Forum, Debates, UnivArts, IESE-Case Competition), we can dive into these themes and more. Here in Rome, the heart of Western Civilization, let's study together the big questions about what makes us truly citizens of our world. We are waiting for you!

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