The Archdiocese of Dublin has advised parishes and priests not to organise events to give communion to parishioners after mass, either inside or outside of churches.

The advice came as a parish in west Dublin stopped handing out communion to 130 parishioners on Sundays, after gardaí advised it should not be doing so.  

"Under current restrictions all religious services continue to take place online. In the interest of health and safety priests and parishes ought not to distribute Holy Communion before or after mass, in or outside churches," the Archdiocese said in a statement.

It added: "Drive-in masses are not permitted as no gatherings of people outdoors or indoors are permitted. Churches remain open for private prayer only; liturgies and devotions (exposition of the blessed sacrament, rosary, stations of the cross) can take in closed churches, online only."

Fr Binoy Mathew, co-Parish Priest of Mountview and Blakestown Parish in Dublin, said that since November parishioners were visiting the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Huntstown to get communion after watching mass online on Sundays. 

"They used to come through the main entrance of the church, receive communion and leave through the exit door. On these days we were having 130 people over a period of two hours," Fr Mathew said.  

Fr Mathew said he stopped distributing communion after gardaí said they viewed what was happening as an organised event.  

"They asked us to stop so we stopped. They said it was an organised event and could not continue," said Fr Mathew. 

"We did not allow people to group. We were very strict about how people came, how they stood, and how they left. When it was pointed out I was breaking the law, I thought probably I was. When it was said it was an organised event I cancelled it," Fr Mathew said.

"People who used to come to this are disappointed," he added.

Gardaí have said events like this should not happen. 

Local Parishioner Philip Brennan said he is angry and that the handing out of communion should be allowed.  

"The handing out of Holy Communion is very important to, I would imagine, a third of the Irish population," said Mr Brennan.

He added: "When we go to receive Holy Communion in Huntstown we pass a local playground which is packed to the hilt and nothing is said about that. I don’t think that is fair.

"I am angry and disappointed that the State would go to the degree of preventing people from receiving what is a spiritual act".

The Archdiocese of Dublin said the current situation "requires sacrifice" on everyone's behalf, to "show respect for those whose sacrifice has been greatest". 

It added: "Holy Communion can only be distributed in the church to mourners attending a funeral mass, to those celebrating the sacrament of marriage and to the essential ministers that make celebration of mass online possible."