The Association of Catholic Priests has said it would be a "premature and potentially detrimental move" to reopen churches for Easter.

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Fr Tim Hazelwood of the Association of Catholic Priests said that given the risk of indoor gatherings, the age of many parishioners and the new variants of the virus, it would "not be wise" to reopen churches for mass and a more cautious approach is needed.

At a virtual meeting with the Taoiseach last Friday, the country's four Catholic Archbishops expressed a strong desire to allow people "gather safely for the important ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter".

Fr Hazelwood said that priests have a different opinion to the church leaders based on the science of the virus.

"We have seen what happened at Christmas... and when people gather indoors, that's danger time," he said.

Fr Hazelwood said there has been deaths in his parish from the virus "so we are very much aware of the dangers".

He said elderly priests have continued to work celebrating funerals and anointing the sick and many priests have themselves got sick from the virus.

His parish did not have mass at Christmas, but allowed people come to the church to receive Holy Communion and then return home.

"It's very real and dangerous, we are indoors and a lot of people who come are elderly," he said.

Fr Hazelwood said for a few more months it would be wise to stay closed and continue with online services.

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