The parents of James Foley, the American journalist whose beheading has shocked and repulsed the world, received a call from Pope Francis on Thursday expressing his condolences. 

In a heartfelt phone call, the pontiff called the grieving parents and spoke to them for 20 minutes.

“He was very compassionate, very loving,” family friend Father Marc Montminy, of St. Michael's Church in Exeter, N.H. told the New York Daily News.

The pope called the parents at about 3 p.m. Thursday and spoke through a translator, the newspaper reported.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi confirmed the pope called James Foley's parents, Diane and John Foley. He gave no details of what the pope said.

In the past the Vatican has described such personal calls by the pontiff as private without revealing the contents of the conversations.

The Foleys have declined to comment from their home in Rochester, New Hampshire.

James Foley was covering the fighting in Syria when he was abducted on Thanksgiving Day 2012. The 40-year-old journalist hadn't been seen until a video of his killing surfaced Tuesday on the Internet.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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