VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2004 ( John Paul II asked that media professionals be helped to express their "enormous" possibilities in the promotion of human and family values.

The Pope gave this instruction today to the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, which is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its foundation at the initiative of Paul VI.

The assembly was also marking the 40 years since the publication of "Inter Mirifica," the Second Vatican Council decree on the means of social communication.

In his brief address in English to the members of the council, the Holy Father encouraged them "to draw inspiration from the conciliar document to continue in your mission of helping those who work in this vast field to animate it with a humane and Christian spirit."

"In this way, the media will be in a better position to tap their enormous positive potential for promoting sound human and family values and thus contributing to the renewal of society," he said.

The social communications council, in accordance with the 1988 papal constitution "Pastor Bonus," "is involved in questions regarding the means of social communication, so that, also by these means, human progress and the message of salvation may benefit secular culture and mores."

The constitution indicated: "With special solicitude the council looks to Catholic newspapers and periodicals, as well as radio and television stations, that they may truly live up to their nature and function, by transmitting especially the teaching of the Church as it is laid out by the Church's magisterium, and by spreading religious news accurately and faithfully."

In that constitution, the Pope established that "the Press Office of the Holy See becomes 'the special office' under the First Section of the Secretariat of State for the publication and distribution of 'official communications concerning both the acts of the Supreme Pontiff and the activities of the Holy See.'"