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Pope consoles family of slain US journalist

By Susan Gately - 23 August, 2014

James FoleyPope Francis has called the family of the American journalist whose murder by beheading was filmed by Islamic State (IS) and posted on the internet on Tuesday.

Islamic State said the execution, which provoked horror and outrage all over the world, was a reprisal for US bombing of their strongholds in Northern Iraq.

Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, confirmed the Pope had telephoned James Foley’s parents, Diane and John Foley, on Thursday, but gave no details of the conversation.

James Foley was covering the fighting in Syria when he was abducted on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

The 40-year-old journalist hadn’t been seen until the video of his killing surfaced on the Internet.

The freelance journalist had already spent time in captivity in 2011 when he was kidnapped in Libya and held captive in Tripoli for 45 days.

A 1996 graduate of Marquette University, James Foley had been a freelance journalist for the past several years, mostly in the world’s trouble spots.

His parents addressed reporters on Wednesday outside their home in New Hampshire and paid tribute to their son.

“There is no reason for this slaughter,” said his mother Diane. “Jim was just a symbol for our country. Jim was there to hear the truth and bear witness to the love and suffering…and they [I.S.] knew that.”

Addressing the topic of the US bombing of IS strongholds in Iraq earlier this week, Pope Francis said it was lawful to stop an unjust aggressor.

“In these cases where there is unjust aggression, all I can say is this: it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underline the verb ‘stop.'”

He added, “I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means.”

“With what means can they be stopped?” he asked. “These have to be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit.”

The Pope said humanity had the right, “to stop the unjust aggressor,” as well as to ensure the aggressor is “stopped so that he does not do evil.”

The Pope added that he was considering travelling to Iraq to show solidarity with those who had been murdered, raped and exiled by the IS.

Cardinal Fernando Filoni greets Pope Francis

Cardinal Fernando Filoni greets Pope Francis

On Thursday, Pope Francis met his recently returned envoy to Iraq, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Speaking to Vatican Radio afterward, Cardinal Filoni said the Pope was very attentive and let him speak at length.

“He took to heart all the situations I spoke about: the expectations of our Christians and their worries, as well as the approach taken by the local churches.”

Cardinal Filoni visited the country from 13 to 20 August.

During this time he met with refugees gathered outside and inside churches and in the camps.

“You have to realise that this is the warmest period of the year,” he told Vatican Radio and temperatures regularly exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit, so shade and water are extremely important.

When their immediate needs were met, the people were asking, “How long will this go on?”

“The most vivid images that will stay with me are of those people who have lost everything” yet count themselves lucky if no one in their immediate family was killed by the Islamic State forces, he said.

Most of the members of the minority Yazidi religious community were not so fortunate, he said.

“This was agonising. Their faces were blank.” They had seen many of the men in their villages murdered and many of the women “kidnapped, raped and sold.”

Cardinal Filoni, an expert in middle eastern affairs, served as Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq from January 2001 until 25 February 2006, remaining in Baghdad even during the American airstrikes.

He narrowly missed being killed in Baghdad on 1 February 2006, when a car bomb exploded next to the nunciature.

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