The Stormont Executive has decided that it will no longer be mandatory to wear masks in places of worship, however some parishes are expected to keep the rule for now.
Ministers announced this week that it would no longer be obligatory to wear masks during Mass and other liturgies, but would instead be guidance. The new measure took effect on Tuesday at 6pm.
Face coverings will still be legally required when entering and exiting the building and will be strongly advised while singing or moving around the church.
The Irish Catholic understands that bishops are concerned that making masks optional may deter Mass-goers who feel vulnerable from attending despite the fact that they are fully vaccinated and therefore as protected as they will be.
At the same time, some parishioners who have been resistant to wearing masks or feel that the rule is now burdensome given levels of vaccination will be keen to move closer to normal liturgy once the legal requirement is relaxed.
Whereas churches in the Republic can only have pods of up to 50 people at Mass, churches in the North are currently allowed to accommodate as many people as can safely fit with a two metre distance. However, ministers are due to meet again on Monday to consider relaxing social distancing from two metres to just one metre.