James Foley's Family: Pope's Call Comforted Us

Friday, 22 Aug 2014 12:19 PM

By Wanda Carruthers

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The parents of slain American journalist James Foley said a call from Pope Francis gave the family great comfort following their son's death at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS).

John and Diane Foley told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" the call touched them "very deeply," especially since the Pope had just lost members of his own family in a car crash in South America.

"Huge comfort, huge comfort. Because Pope Francis, like Jesus, loves, like Jim. He understood Jim's heart. Here Pope Francis himself, having lost three family members, was in deep grief himself. And yet he reached out," Diane Foley said Friday.

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Also appearing on NBC's "Today" show Friday morning, Diane said the "whole family was there" when the Pope called, adding that her "brother-in-law spoke in Spanish to him."

"He offered us his personal prayer. And we felt very comforted and supported in that regard," John Foley said on "Today."

John said the family recently received an email from their son's captors, the first communication he said they had with them since last December. He said he "underestimated" their threat to kill James.

The Islamic State on Tuesday uploaded a gruesome video showing a member of the terrorist group beheading James. It which included a threat to kill another American journalist, Steven Sotloff.

"I did not realize how brutal they were. And I actually hoped we could engage in negotiations with them, if they were willing to send us any sort of communication," John told "Today."

Diane said on "Today" they had continued to send the captors emails, despite the lack of communication, and had "established a special email and sent multiple messages, hoping to engage them."

John told "Morning Joe" his son's desire to help those less fortunate began when he "first met poverty and disadvantaged [while a student] at Marquette University."

"Since that moment, his soul and heart grew and grew and grew to encompass all of those people who needed help, needed their stories told. He began to love all, and that was his biggest gift to the people he met — his love and his help," John said.

After first traveling overseas while working for Teach for America, Diane told "Morning Joe," James came home and realized "he had to go back again, because of what he had seen." She said that as a parent, she found that "difficult to understand, truly."

"Somebody that knew him said, 'After going there and seeing what was going on, he couldn't just sit at home. He had to go back and report this story.'

"He just was so committed to the people whose suffering he was trying to humanize.
He wanted the world to know how people were suffering. Particularly, the children touched him so much," Diane said.

Diane said James had "raised money for an ambulance, because people were bringing people to the hospital in wheelbarrows and carrying them."

"The more he saw the suffering, the more his heart seemed to grow. And he just had a growing commitment," she said.

Diane said a former Teach for America student of James' commented about the impact he could have had on his captors.

"One of his former students from Teach for America reached out with a beautiful tribute. And they said that if only those young jihadists had had a Mr. Foley, that our Jim would have saved his life. And the lives of so many others," she said.

Working as a photojournalist for GlobalPost, James was first taken prisoner in April 2011 in Libya during that country's civil war, and was released after 44 days.

When James was back home in the United States in October 2012, Diane said she questioned if he needed to return to Syria, but explained her son promised he would "be home for Christmas." Foley went missing while covering the Syrian conflict the next month, in late November.

Diane described James, the oldest of five children, as a "very joyful, happy kid," though John said his son was "not a saint." John said James realized he had a "privileged upbringing, and he wanted to share that."

John said he was proudest of his son when other hostages he had been held with talked of "his courage and his commitment to helping all of those [fellow prisoners]." He said James would negotiate with the guards while "being punished, both physically and psychologically."

James' "courage, and, particularly, his compassion," were an answer to a prayer, Diane told the "Today" show, adding the family gained strength from "so many people praying for Jimmy." John said the family was praying that "everything possible can be done to save Steven Sotloff and other American hostages."

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The family plans to establish a foundation in James' memory, John told "Morning Joe," "to make sure that Jim's death is not in vain, in terms of helping others." He said they would also work to encourage the ability to negotiate for families facing similar circumstances.


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