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Diane Foley, mother of deceased journalist James Foley, at the Foreign Press Club in Rome. PICTURE: RNS/Josephine McKenna

The mother of American journalist James Foley, who was executed by the Islamic State group in Syria, has traveled to Rome to thank Pope Francis for the sympathy and support he gave her family after her son’s death.

Diane Foley, who heads a foundation established in her son’s honor, came to Rome to promote a documentary about her son’s life. She met the Pope after attending Mass at the pope’s Santa Marta residence inside the Vatican on 3rd March.

"It was such a gift to be in the presence of such a holy man,” Ms Foley told Religion News Service on Monday. “I hadn’t had a chance to thank him. For me it was profound.”

Ms Foley, a devout Catholic, said her family had been deeply moved when the pope telephoned them in August, 2014, soon after the journalist’s brutal beheading. She wanted to thank him personally.

"It was just very beautiful that he called to tell us how sorry he was and how we were in his prayers and how Jim had truly been a martyr,” she said.

“He was very loving. He was one of the good people, among the many hundreds of good people who lifted us up after Jim’s death.

“He was one of the voices of love. I was just so touched.”

James Foley, a 40-year-old freelance journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire, disappeared on 22nd November, 2012, while reporting about the Syrian civil war.

At the time, the Islamic State group said his execution was in retaliation for US airstrikes on the Islamic group's positions in northern Iraq. Before his killing the organisation had also demanded a ransom $US132.5 million from his parents and political concessions from the United States.

Ms Foley said her Catholic faith had helped her through the trauma of losing her son.

“Without my faith I don’t know if I could have survived to be honest,” she said. “It has carried me through. To have the head of the Catholic faith reach out to me is so humbling when you think of all the tragedies in the world.”

Her local church had helped her contact the Vatican ambassador in Washington, DC, to set up her meeting with the Pope.

The James W Foley Legacy Foundation fights for journalism safety and protection and the safe return of US hostages abroad.