Cuba’s government has declared Good Friday a holiday to comply with a request by Pope Benedict XVI during his recent visit to the island, a decision taken as an “exception” this year while awaiting the “definitive ruling.”
The official daily Granma, mouthpiece of the Communist Party, said Saturday that the Cabinet agreed to a day off for workers on April 6 during Holy Week.
The newspaper recalled that the pontiff asked Cuban President Raul Castro to declare Good Friday a holiday on the island to allow time for the day’s religious services, during the meeting they had at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana on Tuesday.
“Moments before his departure, the Cuban president said he agreed to the holiday as an exception this year in honor of His Holiness and the glad result of his extraordinary visit to our country, and that he would leave it to the highest bodies of the nation to make the definitive ruling,” Granma said.
Meanwhile the Vatican said the Cuban government was sending a “very positive message” in declaring next Good Friday a holiday, the spokesman for the Holy See, Federico Lombardi, said Saturday.
“The fact that Cuban authorities accepted the request made by the Holy Father to President Raul Castro, declaring next Good Friday a holiday, is certainly a very positive message,” Lombardi said in a communique.
The Holy See, the spokesman said, hopes that the measure will encourage Cubans’ participation “in the religious celebrations of the Easter season and also that the pontiff’s visit continues to bear the desired fruit for the good of the church and of all Cubans.”
The pope’s request was in line with the one made by his predecessor John Paul II on his visit to Cuba in 1998, when he expressed his wish to then-head of state Fidel Castro that Dec. 25 be declared the Christmas holiday, to which the Cuban leader assented.
From March 25-28 Benedict XVI made a visit to Cuba, the only communist country in the Americas, where he officiated two large outdoor Masses and spoke about the importance of fundamental liberties and reconciliation among Cubans, and met with Raul Castro and his brother Fidel.
Benedict XVI ended on the island his second visit to Latin America, which also included Mexico, and which has been his 23rd international trip in the seven years of his pontificate.