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August 24. 2014 5:43PM

Close to a thousand people remember James Foley at service in Rochester


John and Diane Foley are embraced by well-wishers during a Mass of healing, hope and peace in honor of their son, slain journalist James Foley, at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic church in Rochester on Sunday. (Bruce Preston/Union Leader)

ROCHESTER — Nearly 1,000 people stood to applaud as John and Diane Foley thanked the community for the support they’ve received since learning last week their journalist son had been beheaded by a militant Muslim group.

“He’s free now,” John Foley said Sunday at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, where a Mass of healing, hope and peace was held in memory of James Foley.

As fellow parishioners sang “Amazing Grace,” John and Diane Foley presented the gifts — donations for the poor and the symbolic bread and wine to be shared by members of the church — as part of the service.

Bishop Peter Libasci, head of the Manchester diocese, led the celebration, along with about 20 priests from the area. He conveyed his deep sympathies to the Foley family and parish members, who have been praying for Foley’s return since he was taken captive in Syria nearly two years ago.

“Jim went back again that we might open our eyes — so that we might know the preciousness of life,” Libasci said of Foley, who was captured and held for more than 40 days in Libya in 2011.

Libasci said Foley’s work exemplified the teachings of God — courage, compassion and consideration of the suffering of others.

“We’re challenged today to be our best selves,” Libasci said, citing the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which called for love, forgiveness, joy and understanding.

“It’s not beyond our capacity — it’s not beyond impossible,” Libasci said, adding everyone can strive to achieve such values and deeds.

Later in the service, the parish prayed for peace in the world, for gratitude for Foley’s life and for the safe release of captives in Syria, including journalist Steven Sotloff, who was threatened with beheading in the same video that showed the grisly execution of Foley. Sotloff, a graduate of New Hampshire’s Kimball Union Academy, has been missing since Aug. 4, 2013.

On Saturday night, about 200 area residents — including Libasci and members of Muslim groups — attended a vigil at the Rochester Commons to honor Foley’s life.

East Hampstead resident Nadia Alawa, who is president and founder of NuDay Syria, said she helped organize the event to honor Foley, but also to denounce his death.

Alawa, a Muslim, was also at Sunday’s service.

“It’s a very warm family and a very beautiful service,” Alawa said, adding it was fitting for people of all faiths to remember James Foley together.

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Family and friends have created a scholarship at Marquette University and hope to form the James W. Foley Legacy fund to further his pursuits of education and journalism, according to www.freejamesfoley.com.


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