The Archbishop of Dublin has noted the emergence of negative trends in Irish society during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at an online gathering of the Dublin Council of Churches, Diarmuid Martin said people in Ireland reacted quickly and responded responsibly and generously to restrictions, which were truly life-changing.

However, he pointed to some negative trends that have emerged, including "protests against mask-wearing and other restrictive measures".

He said: "Some of those who took part in these anti-mask demonstrations were the same groups that attempted to overturn my car when I attended an Islamic gathering in Croke Park.

"There are voices out there who do not understand, or do not want to understand, what religious tolerance means in the Ireland of today and that should concern all of us."

The archbishop also noted specific challenges for churches during the pandemic, including believers being rendered unable for lengthy periods to gather for religious services.

"There can be a justification for the closing of churches, especially at crucial moments or to protect vulnerable people. Such measures should however be limited to the minimum period necessary," he said.

Dr Martin said that for Catholics the celebration of mass and the sacraments is at the very heart of what it means for us to be a Christian community.

He said religious leaders can be powerful agents of fostering responsible behaviour and should also be the forefront in addressing new needs as they emerge.

Archbishop Martin warned of a danger that churches become gripped by their own problems and fail to lead outwards. 

He said the current situation should be used to reflect on what kind of church is needed during the pandemic and afterwards, adding "there will be no rushing back to church services".

The archbishop described the inability to attend public worship leading to "creative use of social media" to make services available online.

However, he said there had been less emphasis on fostering the ways in which the encounter with Christ can be fostered in daily life.

"When we reflect on situations in which people have been or are today prohibited through persecution to attend public celebrations, the faith is maintained in other ways especially through fostering faith in the family," he said.