The Pope's response was immediate: "Quite simply, it means being a person of integrity, an individual whose personal and professional life reflects the teachings of Jesus and the Gospel."
Some 100 Catholic journalists, who were in Rome to celebrate the press union's 75th anniversary, heard the Pope's words today.
"It means striving for the highest ideals of professional excellence, being a man or woman of prayer who seeks to give the best that they have to offer," the Holy Father explained.
"It means having the courage to seek and report the truth, even when the truth is inconvenient or is not considered politically correct," he continued. "It means being sensitive to the moral, religious and spiritual; aspects of human life, aspects which are often misunderstood or deliberately ignored."
"It means reporting not only the misdeeds and tragedies that take place, but also the positive and uplifting actions performed on behalf of those in need: the poor, the sick, the handicapped, the weak, those who are otherwise forgotten by society," he stressed.
"It means offering examples of hope and heroism to a world that is in desperate need of both," the Pope added.
This "is the spirit that the International Catholic Union of the Press must always strive to embody in its membership and activities" so that the "organization will continue to be a source of fellowship and support for Catholics working in the word of journalism," John Paul II said.
During the meeting, the Pope remarked on the growth of the press organization. He noted that the first world congress in 1930 brought together 230 Catholic journalists from 33 countries, while the most recent one, in 2001, gathered 1,080 journalists from 106 countries.
Before attending the papal audience, the journalists attended a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica celebrated by Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
In his homily, when commenting on the miracle of the man born blind, the American archbishop gave an analogy of the vocation of the Catholic journalist: to take the light of truth, to open eyes to the dimensions of the Spirit, in a world in which political and economic motivations seem to be the sole assumption.
At the audience, John Paul II concluded by saying a Catholic journalist must not only seek a high professional level, but also moral heroism. "We have the obligation to be saints, to cast rays of light and, like Jesus, give sight to the blind," he said.