Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi confirmed the Holy Father called the Foleys on Thursday afternoon, reaching them at their Rochester, New Hampshire home. Although no details of the conversation were made public, Lombardi said that Pope Francis made the phone call in order to console the Foley family and offer his prayers.
Prayers, Jim Foley acknowledged in an essay he wrote for his alma mater, Marquette University, are perhaps what kept him "afloat" during his 44 days of detention at a military facility in Libya. Foley was detained in May 2011 while covering the Libyan conflict.
The essay, republished by Marquette in the wake of his death, reveals that Foley prayed often during his stay in the detention center.
"I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayer. 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."
During a rare telephone call home to his mother 18 days into his detention in Libya, his mother assured him that "so many people are praying for you" and told her son that Marquette was holding a prayer vigil in his honor. When asked if he felt those prayers, he responded "I do, Mom, I feel them."
While covering the Syrian conflict in 2012, Foley was kidnapped by gunpoint on Thanksgiving Day near the northern Syrian town of Taftanaz.
On Tuesday, the Islamic State posted a graphic four-minute video to YouTube entitled "A Message to #America (from the #Islamic State)." The video showed the execution of Foley and warned that further military action in Iraq will determine whether another captive, American journalist Steven Joel Sotloff, will live or die.