The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has expressed concern at parishes coming under pressure to rush through First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies.
As well as running the risk of undermining public health measures, he said: Some efforts, often well intentioned, run the risk of reducing the administration of sacramental acts almost to the level of a supermarket in which you can drop in and get the sacrament done.
This would reduce the Eucharist to a commodity.
Some parents and grandparents have been voicing their displeasure in recent days at the cancellation of First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies because of the Covid-19 restrictions.
In a statement, Archbishop Martin said he understood the disappointment of families who had been ready to undertake these events and now find them postponed.
However, he said he was worried about parishes taking initiatives to get First Communions and Confirmations done.
I appreciate the pressure that families and schools can bring in parishes. We have to remember that First Communions and Confirmations are sacramental acts and must be celebrated in an appropriate liturgical context and catechetical preparation.
The idea that sacramental acts have to be done quickly and can be done outside the normal liturgical situation is false. There is no urgent need to celebrate these sacraments just because they fit into the school calendar.
The Archbishop also criticised what he said were distortions of the Vaticans stance on worshipping during the coronavirus pandemic, and expressed concern that some were underestimating the seriousness of the current public health situation in Dublin, which has seen the return of restrictions for places of worship amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in the region.
These restrictions include the closing of places of worship except for private prayer, and the postponing of First Communion and Confirmation services.
In his statement on Saturday, the archbishop said: I am seriously concerned that many people may be underestimating the seriousness of the current situation in Co Dublin and indeed now in other counties. The spread of the virus has reached serious levels and constitutes a real risk of radically increased infection within the community.
In many cases, the increase in numbers is due to gatherings within households and communities.
He said that this increase in numbers in Dublin was behind calls by public health experts for people to reduce their contacts, and this need to reduce contacts was in turn at the root of the latest moves to limit public worship in the capital.
He added that although there was no evidence of the virus being spread in worshipping communities, the measures in Dublin are appropriate at this time.
He also addressed the issue of the serious distortion of a Vatican document that addressed worshipping amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
I have seen reports quoting a Vatican document urging a rapid return to normal worship. Some are using that as an indication that the official line of the Holy See is to object to restrictions. This is a very serious distortion of what that document says.
The document . . . strongly supports the application of restrictive measures and painful decisions even to the point of suspending the participation of the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist for a long period.
He said: Places of worship must remain closed except for private prayer as well as for limited attendance at funerals and weddings.
In a message to clergy on Friday, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson warned their churches would almost certainly have to close as Dublin moved to Level 3 restrictions under the Governments Living with Covid-19 plan.
He said the prospect was both frustrating and frightening but added: It is important that we face this with resilience and hope.