Cuba has now made Good Friday an official national holiday after restoring that Catholic feast as an “exceptional” measure when Pope Benedict XVI visited the island in 2012.
The new Labor Code, passed by the National Assembly in December, established Good Friday as a holiday “every year,” Communist Party daily Granma said Tuesday.
Since the new regulation will take effect in June, the Labor and Social Security Ministry issued a special ruilng to make this Friday a day off work.
The first Good Friday that Cuba celebrated in decades was on April 6, 2012, following a request made by Benedict XVI to President Raul Castro during his March 26-28 visit to the island.
In 2013, the government maintained the holiday but without mentioning that the reason for it was to celebrate Good Friday.
Benedict’s request brought continuity to what was started by his predecessor, John Paul II, on the visit he made to Cuba in 1998, when he persuaded Fidel Castro to make Christmas a holiday again.
Separately, the Cuban Catholic Church announced that national state television will broadcast Wednesday a depiction of the Passion that took place in the Havana Cathedral.
Last year, state television aired live the Good Friday service officiated by Cardinal Jaime Ortega in Havana Cathedral.
After the victory of Fidel Castro’s Revolution en 1959, relations between the Cuban regime and the Catholic Church were marked by tension over the expulsion of priests and the suppression of religious celebrations.
The historic visit of Juan Pablo II in 1998 began a new phase of detente, but it was during the presidency of Raul Castro - Fidel’s younger brother - when relations visibly improved.
In 2010, Gen. Castro opened an unprecedented dialogue with the Catholic hierarchy that led to a process of freeing political prisoners.
In Cuba, Holy Week coincides this year with a school holiday commemorating Fidel Castro’s defeat of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.