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Cuba sets Good Friday as holiday after pope's request

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
updated 10:11 PM EDT, Sat March 31, 2012
Pope Benedict XVI with Cuban leader Fidel Castro during a meeting on March 28.
Pope Benedict XVI with Cuban leader Fidel Castro during a meeting on March 28.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pope Benedict XVI made visit to Cuba
  • He asked Raul Castro to make Good Friday a holiday
  • Workers will have April 6 off

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Cuban President Raul Castro has granted Pope Benedict XVI's request to make Good Friday a holiday -- at least this year -- Cuban state media reported Saturday.

During his visit to Cuba this week, the pope asked Castro to recognize the day Christians commemorate Jesus Christ's crucifixion, a Vatican spokesman said.

The government said it would give workers the day off April 6, the first time Good Friday has been officially celebrated since the 1959 Cuban revolution.

Previously, the only other religious holiday the government recognized in Cuba was Christmas, which was deemed a holiday in 1997 at the request of Pope John Paul II prior to his visit to the island.

Pope Benedict XVI's Mass in Havana

According to Cuban state media, Castro told the pontiff on Wednesday that Good Friday would be officially celebrated this year.

Whether Good Friday would remain a permanent holiday is still under consideration, the reports said.

In a private meeting with Raul Castro, Benedict also requested that the church be allowed to open Catholic schools and air religious broadcasts, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said during a press conference in Havana. So far, the Cuban government has not responded publicly to those requests.

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