Prayers for alumnus James Foley

Prayers were offered in Jesuit parishes on both sides of the Atlantic at the weekend for the repose of the soul of Jesuit alumnus, James Foley, the American journalist murdered in Syria. A mass of remembrance for the former Marquette University student was held on Sunday at his hometown church in Rochester, New Hampshire. Prayers were also offered for all those caught up in conflict - especially in the Middle East - and for those who work for justice and reconciliation.

In Britain, congregations in Jesuit parishes prayed for the journalist's family and for peace in Syria. Farm Street Jesuit Church in central London has a shrine to Syria.

On Saturday evening, James Foley’s parents attended a vigil organised by Syrian-Americans and Muslims in Rochester.

“We are honored that you cherish and love Jim," said his father John. "We are honored that you recognise the sacrifices that he made.”

His mother Diane added: “We want to thank you for understanding Jim’s heart, and I pray that we will take up the challenge to love like Jim did.”

James Foley studied history at Marquette University, the Jesuit university situated in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During the time he was held captive in Libya in 2011, he said that it was prayer and his faith that kept him going.

"If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, 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 ... It didn't make sense, but faith did."


A statement from Marquette University stated: “James 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.”

This sentiment was also expressed by his family in their statement following news of his murder in Syria: “Jim's life challenges us all to love and forgive one another, and to make this world a better place. His bold commitment to bearing witness of the suffering in conflict zones and his extraordinary ability to befriend others drives us to somehow find a way to keep his memory alive …” Foley’s family says they intend to carry his  indomitable spirit forward by establishing a fund to further his life legacy “that embodies his incredible empathy, humanity, and courage”.

Read Damian Howard SJ's article in The Tablet about the Islamic State, which has terrorised religious minorities in Syria and Iraq and which was responsible for James Foley's execution.