Catholic Bishops in the west have said it is unlikely that children will be able to make their First Communion or Confirmation before the end of the current school year. 

They have formally deferred all confirmations until the autumn and are asking parishes to do the same for planned First Communions. 

In a pastoral message today, the Bishops of the Western Province also called for a slight increase in the number of people allowed to attend funerals and a return to public worship, sooner than the latest Government guidelines would allow.

They said allowing 25 mourners at funerals, instead of 10 at present, would bring much consolation to grieving families. 

They have expressed concern that public church services would still be excluded if restrictions were eased to Level 3.

The bishops said this means people might not have the chance to attend mass together, for several more months. 

They argue that this ignores the contribution that communal worship makes to the mental and spiritual well-being of their congregations. 

Expressing particular concern about the impact this would have around Holy Week and Easter services,  the bishops said they will continue to lobby for changes in this regard. 

The message from the Archbishop of Tuam, along with the Bishops of Galway, Killala, Elphin, Achonry and Clonfert, is being issued to all parishes in their respective dioceses to mark the anniversary of the pandemic. 

In it, they also reflect on the challenges that people have faced over the last 12 months.