The head of the Catholic Church has said people should be able to gather safely to mark Easter in Ireland.
Ministers should also consider increasing the number of bereaved allowed to attend funerals during the pandemic, Archbishop Eamon Martin urged the Taoiseach.
Micheál Martin said his concerns would be given consideration.
The Taoiseach’s office said: “They shared their concern that life at present is particularly stressful and difficult for people to endure, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
“Recognising the spiritual comfort and hope that participation in public worship brings, the archbishops asked that public worship resume when an easing of restrictions is considered.”
Delighted to meet Maura Burke as she got her vaccination today. It was heartening to see Maura and others so happy to get the vaccine, and appreciative of the staff at Meath Primary Care Centre. We’re making positive progress in the battle against Covid-19. #holdfirm pic.twitter.com/wUqmIUoMzqAdvertisement
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) February 19, 2021
The Fianna Fáil leader has warned tough restrictions to slow the spread of disease could remain in place into April amid uncertainties over infectious new variants.
The Taoiseach met a group of bishops on Friday to discuss the church’s desire to return to worship during the season of Lent.
His office added: “They expressed a strong desire that people might gather safely this year for the important ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter.
“They also requested consideration of an increase in the number of the bereaved who may attend funeral Masses.”
The archbishops emphasised that they wished to continue supporting the public health message and to encourage all necessary measures, including vaccination, to protect health and wellbeing, especially that of the most vulnerable.
The Taoiseach acknowledged the importance of the Church community in people’s lives at this time of stress and worry.
His office said: “He outlined the ongoing concerns regarding the spread of the virus, particularly the new variants, stressing that any increase at all in mobility can have serious consequences for public health and put pressure on the health service.
“In concluding, he said the concerns raised at the meeting would be given consideration.
“It was agreed to maintain dialogue as the situation evolves.”
For Catholics the beginning of Lent is traditionally marked by a day of fasting and by the distribution of ashes on the foreheads of church-goers. Believers are encouraged to make a commitment to prayer, charity and fasting or self-denial. #livinglent pic.twitter.com/cFs1qDzK7G
— CatholicBishops (@CatholicBishops) February 17, 2021
Three cases of the Brazilian variant of Covid-19 have been detected in Ireland for the first time, the Department of Health said.
All are directly associated with recent travel from the South American country, the authorities said.
They are being followed up by public health teams and enhanced measures have been put in place.
The Brazil variant could be much more contagious or easy to catch than the original version of coronavirus.
It has undergone changes to its spike protein – the part of the virus which attaches to human cells.
It first emerged in July.
Around 90 per cent of Covid-19 cases in Ireland are associated with the UK variant.
Numbers of new infections and pressure on hospitals has eased and the death toll has begun to abate following weeks of tough curbs.
The emergence of new coronavirus variants introduces significant uncertainty in predicting when society can return to normal, public health experts have said.
The Republic recently passed the grim milestone of 4,000 dead from the disease during the latest wave of mortality.