Rome campus to host inaugural conference on human flourishing

ACU’s Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry is partnering with Harvard University, Boston College, and Baylor University on an international conference that aims answer the perennial question: how do we live our best life?

The inaugural Makarios conference will be hosted this month at ACU’s Rome campus and aims to become a biennial event. Makarios is a Greek word which appears in the New Testament and can be translated as “happy” or “fortunate”.

The conference will explore the role of character and virtue in Christianity, and how this informs the concept of human flourishing, or the ability to live a good life.

It will bring together around 50 scholars from around the world with expertise in theology, philosophy, history, and the social sciences.

Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry (IRCI) Acting Director Associate Professor Michael Champion said the conference was part of an ongoing collaboration with Harvard University, Boston College, and Baylor University.

“We hope to continue our partnership and build on significant international research about the cultural determinants of human flourishing,” Associate Professor Champion said.

“We aim to draw on ancient and contemporary thinking to enrich lives around the world, in keeping with the aims of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’.”

Matthew Crawford

IRCI Associate Professor Matthew Crawford is ACU’s lead on the conference steering committee and said the collaboration with several US universities had grown out of a five-year, ACU-funded research project, Flourishing in Early Christianity (2022-2026).

“The conference expands the research project by considering other historical periods and approaches to human flourishing, including from philosophy and psychology,” he said.

“We hope to bring distinctive theological, historical, and literary approaches to bear on this problem to inform, reframe, expand, and transform current thinking.”

Associate Professor Champion said the Rome Campus was an indispensable part of IRCI’s research strategy, enabling cost-effective large-scale partnerships and providing a location where ACU scholars can collaborate with academics from Europe and North America.

“With this event we are also making connections with researchers at various other higher education institutions in Rome itself, including the Angelicum and Gregorianum, which is central to the University’s Catholic mission.

“We also hope, over time, that the research events at the Rome Campus will further enrich student experience – including training for HDR students with international partners and we hope to extend that to Honours students.”

The Makarios Conference is a joint undertaking of the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry (IRCI) at Australian Catholic University, the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University, Boston College’s Lonergan Institute and Colloquy in Historical Theology, and the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, which is home to the Global Flourishing Study, the largest and most diverse study of human flourishing ever undertaken.

The inaugural Makarios Conference will be held at the ACU Rome campus from 26-28 May. The full conference program can be viewed here.

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