.- During a personal meeting that lasted over 40 minutes, Pope Benedict XVI asked Cuban President Raúl Castro to recognize Good Friday as a holiday in the country over its importance in the Catholic calendar.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi reported on the conversation and noted that a similar request was made by Blessed John Paul II to Fidel Castro about Christmas when the late pontiff visited Cuba in 1998.
As a consequence of that request, the Cuban government re-established Dec. 25 as a national holiday. Christmas had previously been suspended from the calendar with the success of the local Communist revolution in the late 1950s.
“Of course, this is a matter for the Cuban authorities, and we hope for a response in the not too distant future,” Fr. Lombardi told members of the press.
He added that during the meeting, Raul Castro gave the Pope “a beautiful wooden sculpture of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre.”
Pope Benedict returned to favor, giving the president a “facsimile copy of an ancient volume from the Vatican library, the Latin translation of Ptolemy’s Geography,” the spokesman said.
“It includes a map from 1400 and the latest update includes a world map from 1530 in which the American continent appears, and which points out the location of Cuba.”
The Pope continues his historic March 26-28 visit to the country on Wednesday by traveling to the capital city of Havana, where he will preside at Mass in José Martí Revolution Square.