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Pope Francis calls parents of American journalist
22 August 2014 12:57 by Liz Dodd

Pope Francis has called the Catholic family of an American journalist murdered by a British jihadist this week.

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi confirmed that the Pope called James Foley’s parents, Diane and John, yesterday, but declined to give any details about what he said.

Mr Foley’s death provoked international outrage when a video of his beheading by an Islamic State terrorist who spoke with a British accent appeared on the internet this week.

Mr Foley, 40, who worked for the Global Post and AFP, disappeared in Syria in 2012.

Before apparently killing Mr Foley the masked jihadist blamed US airstrikes in Iraq for his death.

Francis Campbell, Vice-Chancellor of St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, and former UK Ambassador to the Holy See, said this week that the UK must rethink its anti-extremism strategy in light of the killing: “500-700 UK nationals in #ISIS likely committing crimes against humanity & genocide abroad,” he said on Twitter, adding: “Is UK legal system able and willing to prosecute UK citizens for committing crimes against humanity or genocide abroad?”

Mr Foley, the eldest of five children, was born to a Catholic family in Boston, Massachusetts. Fr Paul Gousse, parish priest of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, where the Foleys are parishioners, spent almost an hour at the family home last night, the Catholic Herald reports.

Louise Mensch, a former Tory MP, urged Catholics to “join me in praying a rosary for his soul tonight.”

Her remarks were echoed by Greg Burke, Pope Francis’ Senior Communications Advisor, who drew attention to an article Foley wrote for Marquette University describing how his faith sustained him when he was kidnapped by pro-Gaddafi forces in Libya in 2012.

Afterwards Mr Foley wrote: “I prayed my mom would know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her. I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. 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.

“Clare (my colleague) and I prayed together out loud. It felt energising to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.”

David Cameron cut short his holiday in Cornwall to chair meetings about the incident.

In a statement he said: “If true, the murder of James Foley is shocking and depraved. I will today chair meetings on the situation in Iraq/Syria.”

Speaking from Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, where he is on holiday, US President Barack Obama said that "no just God" would stand for what the jihadists had done.

“ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day,” he said.