VATICAN CITY — Relatives of two British hostages killed by the Islamic State group met Wednesday with Pope Francis as part of efforts to unite people of different faiths to oppose religious extremism and intolerance.
Michael Haines, whose brother David was killed in September, and Barbara Henning, whose husband Alan was killed the following month, were brought up to greet Francis on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica after his rain-soaked general audience.
Usually such access is reserved for visiting prelates.
Michael Haines said the moment "took my breath away."
"He said he was going to pray for me to continue the work that we're doing on unity and tolerance and bringing our communities together," Michael Haines said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
After his brother's murder, Haines launched a campaign to bring a message of tolerance to mosques, youth groups and schools to urge communities to take a stand against Islamic extremists.
"What they are doing to my society, in Britain, is far, far worse than what they did to my brother," he said. "They're trying to turn people against each other."
He said his brother, an aid worker, had helped people "regardless of faith, creed or race."
"So I'm trying to continue his legacy in my own small way by making a stand against hatred, against intolerance," he said.
Haines was meeting with Vatican officials at the British embassy to discuss ways to further the campaign.
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