A group of Catholic priests has criticised those demanding that public Masses be reinstated before the July 20 timeline as "grossly irresponsible".
In a statement, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), which represents more than 1,000 priests in Ireland, said religious groups pushing for an early reopening were "promoting their own self-serving and self-interested agendas" and that claiming entitlement to special treatment was both inappropriate and unacceptable.
"In the present context, gathering people together - especially elderly people who are most at risk - is grossly irresponsible and will lead to great pain, suffering and loss of life for many individuals and families," the group said.
It stressed that at this point in the coronavirus pandemic, "moral responsibility trumps our individual rights" and commended those entrusted with the delicate task of balancing the protection of life and a gradual opening up of the economy for their "careful, prudent and responsible approach".
"As Christians, particularly in these difficult days, we need to be selfless rather than selfish, and focused on the needs of others, (especially the elderly and vulnerable) rather than on our own 'rights'."
The statement was made as an increasing number of conservative Catholics in Ireland have demanded that the Irish bishops push more forcefully for an earlier reopening of public worship than the July 20 timeline set out in the Government's roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions.
The Iona Institute has said Ireland risks being one of the last countries in Europe to restore public worship, with other countries which had much worse outbreaks of Covid-19 restoring public worship sooner, "often after pressure from bishops".
In a pastoral letter issued yesterday, Bishop of Ossory Dermot Farrell noted that the pandemic restrictions affect more than just Mass but also the celebrations of first holy communions and of confirmations, which have been postponed until the spread of this disease is brought under control. Engaged couples have also been forced to defer their weddings.
Restricted access to hospitals and nursing homes has meant that celebrating the sacrament of the sick and bringing holy communion to those who are ill is far more difficult while many have had to bid farewell to a loved one without the consolation of extended family and friends at a funeral.
"What many Catholics lament is the loss of the community dimension of our faith... There is no Church without community," Dr Farrell said.
"Virtual Mass is not the Church. The liturgy is not a film, nor are we spectators," he added.
Meanwhile, one Co Mayo parish started hearing confessions at the weekend and saw a steady stream of penitents on Saturday, according to the local priest.
Fr Charlie McDonnell, administrator of St Mary's Westport, told the Irish Independent that around lunchtime it got busy with about 30 people turning up for confession and a second specially adapted confessional booth, which screens off the priest and the penitent with two layers of Perspex, was opened to reduce the pressure.
"We are very conscious of the 15-minute rule, so even with two metres between people, we would prefer not to have people standing for more than 15 minutes if we can help it."
The parish intends to offer confessions again next weekend. "It shows we are moving along," he said. But the reopening of the church for public worship was not an issue amongst his parishioners and no one has called for it so far.