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August 23. 2014 10:29PM

Hundreds attend Mass for slain journalist from NH


During Mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Rochester on Saturday, the Rev. Paul Gousse remembered James Foley, the freelance journalist who was beheaded last week. Foley was kidnapped in Syria more than two years ago. Gousse challenged the parishioners to use this experience to strengthen their faith. (JOHN QUINN/Union Leader Correspondent)

ROCHESTER - More than 200 people attended a Saturday Mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary to honor James Foley.

Speaking to the gathering, the Rev. Paul Gousse concluded people must rely on their faith, especially when tragedy strikes so close to home.

Gousse recalled the past week, when he went to comfort the Foley family after the world learned of the brutal end to Foley, 40, a freelance journalist from New Hampshire who was beheaded after being kidnapped in Syria more than two years ago.

While it's unclear exactly when or where Foley was beheaded, the group of Muslim extremists called the Islamic State, or ISIS, released an online video of his execution Tuesday.

"It's been a rough week - especially for the Foley family," Gousse said. "For us, it's personal because they are family - they are part of the family."

Gousse previously confirmed how Pope Francis had spoken to the Foleys, who live in Rochester, on the phone last week.

After fielding a slew of questions from members of the media in the past week, Gousse told the hundreds of parishioners that this tragedy has raised more questions than answers.

"It isn't the words that bring comfort, it's the presence," Gousse said, adding "paying attention to one another brings comfort."

Gousse said faith guides him through. He added faith means more than merely going to church - it's about believing.

For those without faith, Gousse said he can only surmise people can only cling to confusion, doubt and anger.

Gousse said Foley's death changes things forever.

"I think a lot of people are starting to realize this is closer than we might realize," Gousse said, adding this incident "put "Rochester on the map internationally."

A week before Foley left for Syria, Gousse said, he asked the journalist why he felt compelled to return. Gousse recalled the answer:

"'I have to. The world needs to know the plight of these people who are being treated like grass under other people's feet,'" Gousse said.

"He had a missionary heart," Gousse said.

To help Foley's family, friends and neighbors understand what must be done, Gousse said. He called them to renew their baptismal promises and reject evil Saturday afternoon.

"This is our faith. This is our rock of faith Jesus Christ built his church upon," Gousse said.

Fellow parishioners expressed their sympathies for the Foley family, who have been joined in prayer for the past two years. Some felt Foley sacrificed himself for his beliefs and others believe it will take a great deal of sacrifice to deal with the Muslim extremists behind his death.

"Evil is not going to overcome faith, hope and love," Gousse said. "Love is stronger than hate."

A holy Mass of healing, hope and peace is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

jquinn@newstote.com


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