The Pope said this in a message sent to the participants of a retreat based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius for promoters of Catholic charity work, organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. The retreat was held Sept. 6-11 at the Fu Jen Catholic University of Taipei.
Some 450 promoters of works of charity in Asia participated, among them five cardinals and more than 60 bishops of 29 nations and 260 dioceses.
In the message, sent by cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, the Pope greeted in particular Sister Nirmala Joshi, who was Mother Teresa of Calcutta's first successor as superior of the Missionaries of Charity, who preached the Spiritual Exercises.
In the message, the Holy Father "expresses his profound appreciation and gratitude to all those who are committed in the 'diakonia' of charity, an essential activity of the life of the Church and a responsibility for the whole ecclesial community."
"In fact," he added, "this witness offers an eloquent testimony of the unbreakable link that exists between the love of God and love of neighbor, heart of all Christian charity."
Benedict XVI hopes that this unprecedented retreat in the continent -- until now only one had been held for America, in Guadalajara, Mexico in June of 2008 -- and thanks to an examination of conscience "under the guidance of the Word of God," the liturgy and personal prayer, will serve participants to "purify their hearts and to be reinforced in their mission with renewed zeal."
Finally, the Pontiff "encouraged them to supplement their professional competencies by reviving the virtue of heartfelt compassion for all those who suffer, thus contributing to the genuine growth of the societies to which they offer their service through true and integral human development."