The Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin said it has begun a "process of significant change" in relation to how children are prepared for their First Communion and other sacraments.

It follows a consultation process on future practices, which earlier this year found a widespread desire among parishioners and clergy for a shift in primary responsibility for sacramental preparation from schools to parish.

The archdiocese's Priests Council has endorsed what the archdiocese is calling "a new approach", which will in time see parishes assuming responsibility for the preparation and celebration of all four sacraments.

At the moment, primary responsibility for preparing Catholic children for the sacraments falls upon teachers and schools.

In a letter sent this week to priests and parishes, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said training must begin immediately to prepare and train voluntary lay catechists in parishes to support families in preparation for Baptism, Confession, First Communion and Confirmation.

The archbishop advised, however, that it would take "some time" to put in place an effective parish capacity to implement the initiative.

He said: "At the heart of the proposal is to stress the primary role of families in sacramental preparation.

"It also advocates a renewed relationship with Catholic schools in promoting Catholic ethos and in delivering the Grow in Love programme."

Dr Martin said that any change must be achieved in line with the differing circumstances of each parish, and that the proposal "not something that will be accomplished overnight".

The archdiocese said it would now establish an implementation group "to look at a range of issues around the proposal" including, communicating with schools and with parents; recruiting and training volunteers in parishes; and providing resources and finance for the initiative.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Martin said we need to get away from the automatic assumption that children make their First Holy Communion and Confirmation and that in Dublin every parent must formally write and apply for children to make the sacraments.

He said the more parents are involved with their children in understanding the sacraments, the more effective they will be.

The Archbishop said he was not catholic schools to remove religious education but said if you remove "the peak" education from second and sixth class there would be "a better allotment of religious education across primary school."

He also said that while a child's First Communion is a family event, it is drifting away from what is fundamentally a religious event.

"It's a family event. It's something that children will remember for all of their lives but it's also drifting away into commercialism. I saw an advertisement for a communion dress - up to €800.

"Go out around some parts of Dublin suburbs and you'll see marquees and the whole thing is slipping away from what is fundamentally a religious event.

"And that's what we want to try and enhance; working with parents, working with children and schools to ensure that people understand what this is about."