Pope calls James Foley's parents

The American journalist was beheaded by a masked member of the Islamic State group.

US Journalist James Foley in Syria in 2012. Picture: Manu Brabo/www.freejamesfoley.org.

ROME - Pope Francis called the parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, to offer his condolences and support, a Vatican spokesperson said on Friday.

The pope spoke at length with Diane and John Foley on Thursday afternoon with the aid of a Spanish-speaking friend of the family, the spokesperson said.

"It was a very long, intense conversation," he said.

Foley was beheaded by a masked member of the Islamic State group in an act filmed in a video released on Tuesday.

As Islamic State fighters have swept through northern Iraq, Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken out against the violence which has seen thousands of Christians and others including Shia Muslims and members of the Yazidi sect killed or driven from their homes.

He said this week that Western countries would be justified in taking action to stop the "unjust" aggression.