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Bishop: Slain US journalist Foley opened our eyes

A woman holds a candle during a vigil for James Foley in his hometown of Rochester, N.H., Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Several hundred people attended and paid tribute to the freelance American journalist who was killed earlier in the week by Islamic State militants. Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering fighting in Syria. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

ROCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- Slain U.S. journalist James Foley was living his faith by bringing images to the world of people suffering from war and oppressive regimes, a Roman Catholic bishop said Sunday at a Mass in his honor.

Bishop Peter Libasci said even after Foley was captured for the first time in Libya in 2011, he "went back again that we might open our eyes."

The Mass was attended by Foley's parents, John and Diane Foley, and hundreds of others in their hometown of Rochester, New Hampshire. Afterward, Libasci read aloud a letter from the Vatican extending the condolences of Pope Francis.

"Thank you for loving Jim," Diane Foley told the crowd after the Mass.

The crowd filled every pew and people stood three deep at the back of the church and along both sides of it. Gov. Maggie Hassan, along with U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, attended the Mass.

Foley was kidnapped on Thanksgiving Day 2012 while covering the Syrian uprising. The Islamic State group posted a Web video Tuesday showing his killing and said it was in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq.

Libasci invoked the prayer of St. Francis, which begins, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace," to implore the gathered not to hate but to heal.

"It is in giving that we receive," he recited. "It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. To these words, I think we can say, 'Yes, I wish we could do that.' It is not beyond our capability. It is not impossible. Our Lord lived it. Our most Blessed Mother lived it. Many saints have lived it. James lived it."

In a packed Our Lady of the Holy Rosary church, the bishop frequently addressed Foley's parents and stressed their son's connection to family. He also prayed for another captive journalist, Steven Sotloff, and all captives.

"Jim went back again that we might open our eyes," Libasci said. "That we might indeed know how precious is this gift. May almighty God grant peace to James and to all our fragile world."

Libasci said after the Mass that people shouldn't think of vengeance.

"Look at what it's done already," he said. "Look at the heartbreak."

A funeral for Foley will be Oct. 18, what would have been his 41st birthday.

Foley's parents on Sunday released a letter that they say their son wrote while in captivity, which he asked an unidentified fellow hostage who was about to be freed to memorize and recount to his family so the letter would not be confiscated by his captors.

In the letter, posted on a Facebook page called "Find James Foley," Foley described being held with 17 other hostages and passing time by discussing movies, sports and trivia and playing games made up of scraps found in their jail cell. He said the hostages were fed daily and given tea and occasionally coffee.

Also Sunday, the U.S. government said Peter Theo Curtis of Massachusetts, a journalist who was held hostage for about two years by an al-Qaida-linked group in Syria, was released. White House national security adviser Susan Rice said Curtis, who wrote under the byline Theo Padnos, is now safe outside of Syria.

At a vigil Saturday night in Rochester, about 200 people gathered to show support for the Foley family.

"We are honored that you care and love Jim. We are honored that you recognized the sacrifices he made," John Foley said then. "He loved the Syrian people. He was devoted to telling their story and doing whatever he could to help their fight."

Speakers praised Foley's determination to report on the Syrian people uprooted by conflict.

"Tonight we want to honor freedom and love: the freedom that James so vehemently believed that all people deserved," said Nadia Alawa, founder of NuDay Syria, a Massachusetts-based organization working to ease the pain and loss in Syria.

The world's largest bloc of Islamic nations denounced Foley's "heinous" killing and reiterated its support for international efforts to confront the Islamic State fighters.

Iyad Madani, chief of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said in a statement Saturday that the actions of the Islamic State group have nothing to do with the values of Islam or his organization's founding principles of tolerance and co-existence.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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