The Catholic Archbishop of the Dublin Diocese and Primate of Ireland Diarmuid Martin, who celebrated his 75 birthday yesterday, said he submitted his resignation to Pope Francis several months ago.

Under Vatican rules, members of the clergy must offer to resign when they reach the age of 75.

However, it does not signal an automatic or immediate retirement. 

Archbishop Martin said he had done so early in order to avoid speculation over who is successor would be.

The Archbishop said that there are 200 priests in the Dublin diocese who are over 70 years of age in lockdown.

He said this was posing a big challenge for other priests in the diocese when dealing with funerals and other duties but morale is good.

Archbishop Martin said there is no alternative to limiting attendance at funerals to small numbers.

He said while this is not an ideal situation, it has been working out satisfactorily when the funeral director, the priest and the family work together.

He said it is difficult for someone when they have lost a loved one, to attend a shortened funeral service and then return to isolation. He said this causes difficulties for the grieving process and it is important to keep in touch with them.

Archbishop Martin said performing last rites was also very difficult and where people are cocooned, clergy members use the phone to accompany them with prayers.

He said he been heartened to hear from the many people he had telephoned in the diocese that they are being looked after well by neighbours and young people.