Cuba more religious after Pope
HAVANA - Agence France-PresseCuba administration has decreed this year’s Good Friday a holiday for the first time since the early days following the island’s 1959 Revolution, granting a request Pope Benedict XVI made during last week’s visit, the Communist Party newspaper Granma said on March 31.
The official newspaper said the decision was taken on March 30 by the council of ministers, but President Raul Castro had told the pope moments before he left that his request would be granted. Benedict called for the Good Friday holiday -- which marks Jesus’s crucifixion and is the holiest day on the Christian calendar -- during a mass in Revolution Square on March 28.
Granma said Castro agreed that Good Friday on April 6 would be made a holiday “in consideration of His Holiness and the happy outcome of this transcendent visit to our country.” He said a decision on whether to make the holiday permanent would be left to the national leadership. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombard said the decision was a “very positive sign.” “The Holy See hopes that this will be good for the participation in religious celebrations and Easter,” Lombardi said. During the visit, Benedict criticized the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, but also called for “respect and promotion of freedom.”