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Cubans to Celebrate Good Friday, Thanks to Pope Benedict

For the first time in 53 years, Cubans will be permitted to celebrate Good Friday, thanks to the intervention of Pope Benedict XVI who asked Cuban president Raul Castro during his recent visit to make it a public holiday.

The Daily Mail is reporting that Castro agreed to Benedict's request to recognize the day as part of Easter celebrations during a private meeting on March 27 while the pope was visiting the communist island nation. 

All religious holidays were ended in 1959 when Castro's brother, Fidel, came into power after the communist revolution. Fidel, a Jesuit-taught former altar boy, reinstated Christmas to honor Pope John Paul II during his historic visit to Cuba in 1998.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi welcomed the decision to reinstate Good Friday as a holiday by Cuba as a "very positive sign."

"The Holy See hopes that this will encourage participation in religious celebrations and in happy Easter festivities and that in future, the visit of the Holy Father will continue to bear the desired fruit to the benefit of the Church and all Cubans," he said.

The communist government said it will decide later whether or not to make Good Friday a permanent holiday.

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