Medellin is the capital of the Department of Antioquia, that is considered as the second most important city of Colombia. I became a Christian in Medellin: I received baptism and confirmation, and I lived the very first years of my life there. In Antioquia, we learnt to work with perseverance and dedication. It was the land of great writers, politicians, artists, scientists and sportsmen. We used to start school lessons at 7.00 in the morning and we even had lessons at 6,00...Professors were hard to please.

The city stands between the mountains of the east and the centre of Colombia, in the “Aburrá Valley”, and it has a population of more than three million people. The citizens are dearly called “paisas” , they are hard-working, optimist and adventurous people with sense of humour. You can find a “paisa” everywhere in the world. Medellin is a socially and economically developed city and there are big agricultural and food enterprises and mining and textile factories.

The life of the Church and its humanitarian and social activities are part of the progress of the city. People suffering because of violence, drugs, social exclusion and poverty are treated with special care.

The so called “paisas” feel they are living in a long-lasting spring, full of flowers during the whole year. Medellin is the capital of orchids: it has got 3,500 of the almost 20,000 species. The national flower, Catleia Trianae, is unique in the world. But Medellin and the paisas had also to fight against drug trade in the last decades: it wasn’t easy to relieve the city from drug problems. Today we can breathe a new air, full of youth, love and life.

This love faced the evil with the help of the Gospel. This is an important theme for the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation, that promoted the Conference entitled “Respect for life, the way to peace” as the symbol of a new beginning (23rd-24th October 2014, Pontifical Bolivarian University, Medellin).