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Castro declares Good Friday a holiday

By on Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Pope Benedict XVI and Raúl Castro outside the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. In the middle is a translator (CNS photo)

Pope Benedict XVI and Raúl Castro outside the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. In the middle is a translator (CNS photo)

Cuba’s government has declared Good Friday a public holiday for the first time since the revolution in 1959 after a request from Pope Benedict XVI.

A communiqué said the decision had been made after the success of Benedict XVI’s “transcendental visit”.

It came after the Pope spent more than 40 minutes meeting privately with President Castro and asked the Cuban leader for further freedoms for the Catholic Church in Cuba and attention to certain “humanitarian” situations.

Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters that while he could not give the press details about the humanitarian cases raised during the meeting, the Pope did give Castro specific names of people in detention or suffering for other reasons the government was in a position to help alleviate.

The Pope also asked the government to consider declaring Good Friday a public holiday, Fr Lombardi said, adding that the Pope explained the significance for Catholics of the day commemorating Jesus’s death. The Pope said he hoped that, just as Blessed John Paul II’s trip to Cuba in 1998 led to Cuba recognising Christmas as a public holiday, he hoped Castro’s government would do the same with Good Friday.

The spokesman said the Pope expressed his pleasure at how Church-state relations had improved over the last 14 years and expressed his hope for “further developments” so that the Church could increase its contributions to Cuban society.

While not giving reporters a specific list of requests beyond the Good Friday holiday, Fr Lombardi said that “if the Pope says the Church wants to act for the good of society, it means he hopes the Church can express itself in additional ways,” including by running schools and hospitals and having greater access to the media.

“The Pope, like every Catholic, is asking for a chance to give our best” for the good of society, he said.

The private meeting was the third encounter between Pope Benedict and Mr Castro in two days; the president welcomed the Pope at the airport in Santiago de Cuba March 26 and greeted him briefly at the end of the Pope’s Mass there.

After their private meeting, the Pope and president exchanged official gifts. Mr Castro gave Pope Benedict a wooden sculpture of Cuba’s patroness, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, and the Pope gave the president a replica of a 15th-century atlas that has an annex featuring the newly discovered Americas.

The meeting took place in the Palace of the Revolution, a building housing the president’s office, the Cabinet offices and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Mr Castro, 80, has served as Cuba’s president since 2008 when his older brother, Fidel, now 85, resigned for health reasons.

While the Pope met privately with the president, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, and other Vatican officials met with Castro’s vice president and other government ministers.

The Pope had arrived in Havana at noon from Santiago de Cuba, where he celebrated Mass March 26 and prayed before an image of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.

Pope Benedict’s arrival at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport was a low-key, informal affair, since the formal welcoming ceremony was held in Santiago de Cuba the previous day.

Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino greeted the pope, a troupe of young ballet dancers performed and a youth orchestra played. A small group of people – perhaps 100 – were allowed to stand outside by the terminal to welcome the Pope. Wearing white T-shirts and baseball caps, they chanted “Benedicto, amigo, Cuba esta contigo” (“Benedict, friend, Cuba is with you”).

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

    COMMUNIST OR CAPITALIST, MUSLIM OR HINDU, LET US LOVE ALL. THAT IS WHAT THE LORD

    OUR SAVIOUR TAUGHT US.

  • Recusant

    He also taught us not to use Caps Lock, although that bit was edited out of the Sermon on the  Mount.

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

    POOR EYE SIGHT AND MORE.

  • Canis

    God bless you Father. We must love all, while trying to help them find the way, the truth, and the life.

  • Hughes196

    Lighten up, Recusant! Easter blessings to everyone!

  • Parasum

    Nothing to see here :( – Communist regimes are quite happy to make small gestures that give the impression that they are not as bad as claimed; for these gestures are a sopto delude the unwary, so that these regimes do not have to concede anything of substance. They are helped enormously by the pathetic eagerness of some of their critics to believe, against the evidence, that these regimes are really not so bad after all.

    It’s depressing to see Catholics fall for this childishly obvious trick. One expects secular countries like the UK, France, or the US to fall for such things: Churches ought to know better. There can in the nature of the case be no reconciliation or peace between Christian Churches and atheistic, anti-theistic Communism. 

  • What Word

     Love the sinner, hate the sin.