VATICAN CITY, OCT. 31, 2001 ( John Paul II has had millions of photographs taken in his 23-year pontificate -- but never surrounded by fashion models.

He did that this morning, as a way to encourage the dignity of women. The young women around him were models of the Turris Eburnea association, who live in the world of entertainment without giving up their Christian values.

The group originated in Turin, Italy, and is inspired by Mary under the title of "Tower of Ivory." Members offer witness in fashion parades and artistic activities.

At the end of today´s general audience, John Paul II congratulated the women for the "significant apostolic work carried out by their association in support of the formation of youth."

The Holy Father said their witness is particularly important for youth given the latter´s "emotional problems and preparation for marriage."

"I hope this witness will bring abundant spiritual fruits in benefit of the people of God," the Pope added.

During Turris Eburnea fashion shows, the models try to project the idea that a woman´s external beauty is a reflection of her internal dignity.

"This is not just about fashion parades but also ideas," said Elena, a dark-haired 17-year-old.

"To be modern, to be well groomed, is not opposed to our search for interior growth," she said. She added that her and her comrades don´t just portray "hollow mannequins but integral women who are enriched by values."