MANCHESTER, N.H. — Prayer not only served as a source of strength for Catholic journalist James Foley — who was allegedly killed by militant Islamic State forces — but is now a foundation for his family and community.
The Foley's bishop, Bishop Peter Libasci of Manchester, N.H., told EWTN on Aug. 20 that the news of the journalist’s death is “very, very troubling,” but that the family and community have been “praying for him and for news of his whereabouts” since Foley's disappearance in November 2012.
“It has been a family that has continued to pray,” the bishop said, adding that the community has also offered its support and prayers since Foley went missing.
“You just know that the reality of faith is what’s holding them right now.”
On Aug. 19, the Islamic State, a militant group who controls territory in Syria and Iraq, released a video titled “A Message to America”; the video purportedly shows the beheading of Foley, though U.S. authorities have not yet publicly verified the film’s authenticity.
After the beheading was shown in the online video, insurgents showed another man, stated to be another missing U.S. journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff, saying that his life depends on American President Barack Obama’s actions.
Insurgents said that Foley’s execution was in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets in northern Iraq.
'The Gift of Jim'
In an Aug. 20 press conference, James Foley’s parents, John and Diane, spoke of their faith as well of their pride in their son.
“We thank God for the gift of Jim. We are so, so proud of him,” said Diane Foley. She added that they prayed to God for strength and were grateful that “God has given us so many prayers” throughout James’ captivity.
She also thanked their family, parish, local priests and community for their prayers.
“It's not difficult to find solace in this point in time,” John Foley said. “We know he is in God's hands, and we know he’s done God’s work,” the father added through tears.
“We need the courage and prayers now to continue without him,” John Foley continued.
Previously detained for six weeks in Libya in 2011, James Foley wrote a letter to his alma mater, Marquette University, a Catholic university in Wisconsin, about how he turned to prayer, specifically the Rosary, during his captivity and how the prayers of family and friends also gave him strength.
“I began to pray the Rosary.” he wrote. “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.”
When he was first allowed to call home after more than two weeks in captivity, Foley said his mother told him about the prayers others had offered up for him. This news made him wonder if, instead of his own prayers, “it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat.”
“If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom,” Foley said, “an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us.”
Marquette University offered its prayers for Foley and his family at the news of his death and stated that it will hold a memorial Mass for Foley on Aug. 26.
President Obama stated that he was praying for the Foley family in an Aug. 20 press conference and decried the tactics of the Islamic State.
The organization, the president said, “speaks for no religion,” noting that many of the Islamic State’s victims are Muslim. “No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and for what they do every single day,” said Obama.
The president pledged that it would “do what we must do to protect our people” and would work to “do what’s necessary to see that justice is done.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, who got to know the Foley family during Jim’s first captivity in 2011, also offered his prayers for the Foley family in an Aug. 20 statement, calling the Islamic State’s actions “evil.”
“There is evil in this world, and we all have come face-to-face with it once again,” the secretary of state said. “ISIL is the face of that evil, a threat to people who want to live in peace and an ugly insult to the peaceful religion they violate every day with their barbarity,” he emphasized.
“James Foley went to the darkest of places to shine the light of truth,” Kerry stated. “He was brave and bold, and no masked coward can ever steal the legacy of this courageous American who lived out the meaning of the word journalism.”
Bishop Libasci said that those who feel frustrated and angry in the wake of Foley’s execution should look towards the example of St. John the Baptist, who also died from beheading and whose feast day will be celebrated shortly.
“All I can think of here is this young man, who was pointing the way toward truth; here was a man who was pointing out what was happening in the country of Syria; here was a man who was pointing to what we should be aware of,” the bishop said.
He added that Christians in this time should look to Christ as St. John the Baptist did. “Let us be one with Christ and let us remember the one who pointed the way towards Christ.”
“A Christian must always remember that revenge does not belong to us,” Bishop Libasci added. “Mercy, as difficult as it may seem, is the most important message we can carry at this time.”