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ROME — Pope Francis met Wednesday with the grieving parents of Beau Solomon, the American college student found dead in a Rome river.
A picture of the encounter shows the pope standing close to the 19-year-old's clearly distraught parents, who have been named in the media as Jodi and Nick Solomon.
Francis expressed "feelings of deepest sympathy and compassion, and his closeness in prayer to the Lord for the young man who died so tragically," according to a short statement released after the meeting.
The pope's unscheduled, private meeting with the Solomons came before Francis held an audience with French pilgrims in a Vatican auditorium.
Beau Solomon — who had conquered childhood cancer — vanished less than 24 hours after arriving in Italy on Thursday for summer classes.
The visiting student from the University of Wisconsin-Madison was last seen about 1 a.m. on Friday (7 p.m. ET Thursday) while at a pub.
When Solomon disappeared, the group of students he had been with tried to call him but couldn't get through, according to the president of John Cabot University, the small Rome-based liberal arts college where the teen was due to study.
After the disappearance, Solomon's parents called their son's credit card company and "realized thousands of dollars had been charged" to his account in Milan, according to Jake Solomon, his brother. Milan is about 350 miles north of Rome.