Catholic school turns abuse apology into religious service

First communion in a German church. Praying children wearing traditional clothes and wooden crosses over the neck. Close-up shot.
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A Catholic school in Australia is under fire for turning an apology for at least 160 abuse victims into a religious service.

The victims, former students at St Stanislaus College in Bathurst, suffered abuse from priests and staff for over three decades up until the 1990s.

A school event, "Apology Service of Sorrow and Hope", is planned for Friday night.

In a statement, head of school Dr Anne Wenham says the service will include "praying to God for forgiveness".

"There will be prayers as part of this service… for the sexual abuse that took place at this college by former members of staff and for healing and hope for the many survivors."

However, victims say incorporating a religious service in will trigger bad memories, especially when the service is held at the school where the abuse happened.

One victim told the ABC it's "insulting".

Australian child protection advocate Hetty Johnstone says it's insensitive to expect victims at the hands of people of faith to engage in a religious service.

"You've got these people still sitting in these positions of power and authority who just don't get it. Who don't really want to apologise, I don't think," she told the ABC.