Taoiseach Micheál Martin has criticised the Bishop of Elphin for defying public health guidelines by planning to hold Communions and Confirmations.
Mr Martin says he does not approve of “any unilateral breaching of regulations no matter what quarter they come from”.
Speaking at a North South Ministerial Council meeting, the Taoiseach said: “I'd say to the church authorities that the Government's only motivation here in terms of the regulations we have brought in, in respect of gatherings and congregations, is to protect people and to protect people's health.”
“That is our only motivation and I think that should be accepted in good faith,” he added.
The comments followed Bishop Kevin Doran announcing plans to beging officiating Communions and Confirmations in the coming days.
Writing in the Irish Independent, the bishop says he consulted with senior priests in his diocese and they decided the ceremonies should be held in line with public health regulations for general religious services.
“The mission of the Church cannot be put on hold indefinitely,” Bishop Doran said.
He said the guidance on religious services is “advice by Government rather than regulation”. The bishop also asks families to “pay full attention to the public health guidelines” if they are celebrating after communions and confirmations.
Priests in the diocese, which covers parts of Sligo, Roscommon, Galway and Westmeath, are expected to contact local communities in the coming days to begin the process of scheduling the delayed religious services.
The Taoiseach said good progress had been made on the vaccination programme which will see children aged 12 to 15 offered vaccines shortly.
“I'm wondering, is it too much to ask that we wait another number of weeks to get into a really strong protective situation with very high numbers of vaccination,” he added.
“We are significantly ahead of the EU average in terms of the uptake of vaccinations and all the age cohorts. We understand fully the difficulties and disruption this has caused normal society including in terms of the normal conduct of religious service, we understand that fully. But it's all done with one purpose to protect public health and to protect our citizens.”