At a 40 minute personal meeting between Cuban president Raul Castro and Pope Benedict, the Holy Father asked for Cuba to recognise Good Friday as a holiday.
Noting that John Paul II asked a similar request of Fidel Castro about Christmas and it was restored as a national holiday, Vatican Spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi SJ said, “Of course, this is a matter for the Cuban authorities, and we hope for a response in the not too distant future.”
Lombardi said Pope Benedict raised the matter of Cuban dissidents, especially those in prison, but did not have details on the specifics.
Just three days after saying that communism no longer works in Cuba, the 84-year-old German pope delivered a carefully worded homily at Mass that was less direct in criticising Cuba’s one-party system but included some thinly-veiled phrases addressing its human rights record.
“I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God,” he said.
In an incident just as Benedict entered Santiago’s main square to celebrate Mass, a man shouted “down with the revolution” and was led away by security agents.
And a few hours earlier, before they were due to attend the Pope’s Mass, Alejandrina Garcia de la Rivas and Laura Maria Labrada Pollan representatives of the relatives of former political prisoners “Ladies in White,” were arrested by Cuban police.
The previous evening, de la Rivas and Pollan had given an interview to the Catholic News Service.
News category: World.