Pope Francis made a heartfelt phone call Thursday to the family of James Foley, a journalist who was recently beheaded by the Islamic State after two years in captivity. Francis spoke with Foley’s parents, both devout Catholics, for about 20 minutes through a translator two days after a video of Foley’s beheading surfaced on Tuesday.
John and Diane Foley said they drew “huge comfort” from the phone call, which was described as “very long [and] intense,” by a Vatican spokesman. The Rev. Marc Montminy, a family friend, said Pope Francis “was very compassionate, very loving.” Pope Francis himself is mourning the loss of four family members who died in a car crash on Tuesday.
Foley’s parents appealed for prayer and for the international community to help hostages in Syria in an interview with MSNBC on Friday. Foley was a practicing Catholic and said in a letter to his alma mater, Marquette University, that he prayed the rosary while being held captive in Libya in 2011.
“I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed,” Foley wrote in the letter. “I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused."
Francis spoke out against the “crimes” in Iraq earlier in August without mentioning ISIS by name. The Vatican sent an emissary to Iraq on Aug. 11.
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“All this gravely offends God and humanity. Hatred is not to be carried in the name of God. War is not to be waged in the name of God,” he said during a Sunday blessing on August 10.
Lord, with so much violence in Iraq, may we persevere in our prayer and generosity.
â€” Pope Francis (@Pontifex) August 17, 2014
Francis is known for making personal phone calls to people in need, which has earned him the nickname “the cold-call pope.” Recipients often pick up the phone to hear “Hello, this is Pope Francis” from the other end of the line. He’s called to comfort a woman who was raped in his native Argentina, a young Italian man who was worried about finding a job after college, and a woman who wrote to him with concerns after her lover pressured her to get an abortion.