By CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE | Published September 4, 2014
ROCHESTER, N.H. (CNS)— Slain journalist James Foley, who sent images and copy from different war zones, was described as living his faith through his work.
The Associated Press reported that at a memorial Mass Aug. 24, Bishop Peter A. Libasci of Manchester, New Hampshire, lauded Foley for bringing important images of war and oppressive regimes to the rest of the world.
According to an AP story, U.S. officials confirmed a graphic video released Aug. 19 that showed ISIS fighters beheading Foley, a 1996 graduate of Marquette who had been a freelance journalist for the past several years, mostly in the world’s trouble spots. In 2011, he was kidnapped on a Libyan battlefield and held captive in Tripoli for 45 days.
Sometime in late 2012, he went missing in Syria. The last time the Foley family heard from him was before Thanksgiving that year.
Vatican Radio reported Aug. 25 that the Holy See’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, sent a condolence message on behalf of Pope Francis to Foley’s family. The message was read by Bishop Libasci at the end of the Mass at the family’s parish, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.
The AP described the memorial Mass as packed, with people standing three deep in the back and sides of the church.
Bishop Libasci asked the crowd to follow the words of the Prayer of St. Francis: “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
AP said Bishop Libasci observed that Foley went back to covering conflicts in the Middle East after his previous kidnapping in Libya.
“Jim went back again that we might open our eyes,” the bishop said, “that we might indeed know how precious is this gift. May almighty God grant peace to James and to all our fragile world.”
AP said Bishop Libasci urged people not to think of vengeance. “Look at what it’s done already,” he said. “Look at the heartbreak.”
Pope Francis phoned Foley’s family on Aug. 21, engaging in a conversation of longer than 20 minutes with several members of the family, through a translator, and in Spanish with one family member.
Father Paul Gousse, pastor of the family’s parish, told Catholic News Service in an Aug. 22 phone call that the Foleys told him they were especially struck by the pope’s outreach to them at a time when he is grieving himself. The wife of the pope’s nephew and their two young children were killed in an Aug. 19 car crash in Argentina.
In April 2013, Foley’s parents attended a prayer vigil at Marquette University in Milwaukee to pray for their son, who at that time had disappeared in Syria.
Before Diane and John Foley had confirmation that spring that their son was missing, Diane said she just felt it—he had missed one of his usual phone calls home—and once they knew for sure, the couple said they were relying on their Catholic faith to cope and leaning on prayer to bring him home.
“Faith has been part of family life, but this has deepened my faith because there is our hope. Our hope is that God will take care of Jim,” she told the Catholic Herald in Milwaukee at the time.
A statement about his death attributed to Diane Foley was posted on a Facebook page originally set up to urge James’ release. Family members “have never been prouder of him,” it said.
“He gave his life trying to expose the suffering of the Syrian people,” the statement said, which also urged the militants to release others they are holding hostage. “Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.”
ISIS said they killed James Foley in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes on the militants’ strongholds and the group said it would kill another U.S. hostage.
News of his grisly death has sent shock waves around the world, eliciting prayers and statements of support for the family from Catholic leaders, the Marquette community, reporters’ organizations, fellow journalists and many others.
“The brutality of this act is itself evidence of an unspeakable evil that is rampant and inhuman,” Bishop Libasci said in response to the news of the execution. “To the prayers that have been offered since his captivity almost two years ago, we now add our prayers for James’ eternal rest and, in Christ Jesus Our Lord, James’s future resurrection to eternal life.”
“Our prayers also must accompany a sorrowful mother, a grieving father, a deeply pained family and countless friends who have kept vigil all this time,” he said. “May we also pray for those who have embraced the way of darkness and death, that they may turn away from this terrible evil now and forever.”
In her statement on Facebook, Diane Foley said: “We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.”
James’ sister, Kelly, took to Twitter asking others not to watch the video that shows his beheading: “Please honor James Foley and respect his family’s privacy. Don’t watch the video. Don’t share it. That’s not how life should be.”
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said on Twitter that anyone sharing the images of the event would have their accounts suspended. “We have been and are actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery. Thank you.”
In 2011, after he was let go by his kidnappers in Libya, James Foley wrote an article for Marquette magazine on how prayer, specifically the rosary, got him through captivity in a military detention center in Tripoli.
He had been captured with two colleagues, he said. “Each day brought increasing worry that our moms would begin to panic. My colleague, Clare, was supposed to call her mom on her birthday, which was the day after we were captured. I had still not fully admitted to myself that my mom knew what had happened. But I kept telling Clare my mom had a strong faith.
“I prayed she’d know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her.”
Foley 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,” he wrote. “Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.”
Foley also described his experience at Marquette University, which he said “has always been a friend to me. The kind who challenges you to do more and be better and ultimately shapes who you become.” He added that Marquette had never been “a bigger friend to me than when I was imprisoned as a journalist.”
Marquette posted a link to his article along with a statement about his death on the university’s website: https://news.marquette.edu.
James Foley had majored in history at the Jesuit university, then enrolled at Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and earned a master’s degree in 2008.
“(He) had a heart for social justice and used his immense talents to tell the difficult stories in the hopes that they might make a difference in the world—a measure of his character for which we could not be prouder,” the Marquette statement said.
The Foleys plan a funeral for their son on Oct. 18, on what would have been his 41st birthday.
Editor’s note: On Sept. 2, ISIS terrorists released a second video showing the graphic beheading of another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, a freelance reporter who wrote for Time and Foreign Policy magazines. He was kidnapped in August 2013.