Relatives of two British hostages killed by the Islamic State group have met Pope Francis as part of efforts to unite people of different faiths to oppose religious extremism.

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 Wednesday.

Usually such access is reserved for visiting prelates.

Michael Haines said the moment "took my breath away." In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, he said the pope "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."