More Catholic bishops have given the go-ahead for First Holy Communions and Confirmations to take place later this month.
However, Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin has declined to join them, and instead has asked parishes is his diocese to abide by current official guidelines.
In a statement published on the diocesan website, Bishop Nulty alluded to the “great sacrifice” that people had made and the prospect that restrictions on Communions and Confirmations would likely ease soon.
“I saw, with great pride, the many young people who queued this past weekend at the walk-in vaccination centres to avail of their first dose of the much needed vaccine. Such was the turn out that we drew the attention of other nations,” he said.
“We have done so much as individuals, as parishes, as communities, as counties and as a country. Better days are, we all feel, within touching distance.
“In this context, and in a recognition of the great sacrifice we have all already undertaken, I am asking parishes to continue to abide by current official guidelines.”
Bishops backing the go-head of the religious ceremonies have claimed there is contradictory messaging about gatherings.
Bishop Nulty referenced this unease and paid tribute to the efforts in parishes over the pandemic.
“I recognise, too, the deep frustrations brought about by conflicting messages of permitted gatherings in so many different contexts. Borne of this, where parishes feel that they can begin to plan for sacramental celebrations I ask that they ensure that they do so in a manner that protects the safety of all and do so in the context of the recommended guidelines for sizes of gatherings for that time.”
Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell has been joined by a number of bishops in giving the go-ahead to Communions and Confirmations despite the Government’s recommendation against holding them on public health grounds.
Bishop Fintan Monahan of Killaloe said parishes in his diocese could proceed with these sacraments from mid-August.
In a statement to Tipp FM, he said that the fears surrounding Communion and Confirmation after-parties were “overplayed”.
Bishop Monahan said he understood the State's point of view but he thought the sacraments had been "singled out" for restrictions.
“Yes, I believe that [after-parties are] being overplayed, because maybe a number of months ago there may have been a risk in that line, but I think most people now are so well educated in the dangers that are there.
“It’s much more safe at this time of year when you can have the possibility of outdoor gatherings which may not be as possible in September or October.”
The diocese of Ferns has left the decision on holding Communions and Confirmations to parish priests and parishioners locally.
“Priests are asked to recommence the conversation with those involved – most especially with parents and teachers – with a view to deciding what is best in terms of safety, unity and overall wellbeing,” the diocese said in a statement to Wexford-based South East Radio.
“Where a church community is of the view that it wishes to proceed, the priest is asked to forward a request – with an agreed and demonstrably Covid-safe plan – to the Bishop’s House for consideration.”
On Wednesday, the Taoiseach's office said it had contacted the Catholic Church and advised them against holding the religious ceremonies.
Micheál Martin’s officials told Archbishop Farrell’s office that the issue would be monitored during August and reviewed at the end of the month.
On Tuesday, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin sent a letter to priests in his diocese, telling them they could proceed with Communions and Confirmations in autumn.
Previously, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland Eamon Martin, Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam and Bishop Larry Duffy of Clogher announced that the sacraments could take place in their diocese locally.
Bishop Tom Deenihan of Meath, Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin and Bishop Alan McGuckian of Raphoe made similar announcements.
Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore also gave the go-ahead on July 31st for Communions and Confirmations to take place in August.