Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba last week has caused the country's president, Raul Castro, to make this year's Good Friday a national holiday, although it is undetermined whether this will become an annual tradition.
Pope Benedict began his three-day visit to the island on Monday, March 26. He reportedly broached the subject of Good Friday during a private meeting with Raul Castro in Havana on Tuesday.
"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," said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi in a statement, according to Reuters.
This is the first time Good Friday has been a national holiday in Cuba since the early days of the island's revolution, when Raul's brother, Fidel Castro, ended religious holidays after the 1959 Communist revolution.
Raul Castro succeeded his brother as president in 2008, and has taken on a variety of economic reforms in the island country.
Many are questioning the importance of making Good Friday a national holiday, especially because it is not recognized as a national holiday in Mexico or the United States.
Many argue that the gesture was more symbolic, as much of Benedict's speeches during his visit were peppered with allusions to freedom, especially religious freedom.
As Fox News reports, the pope's recent sermons and speeches have been centered on the themes of renewal, reconciliation, and those "deprived of freedom."
Good Friday, which falls on April 6 this year, is a somber Christian holiday preceding Easter which observes Jesus's crucifixion and death on the cross.
Before leaving the city on Wednesday evening, March 28, Pope Benedict visited the country's former leader, Fidel Castro.
Pope Benedict now awaits a busy Holy Week ahead of him, with public services Thursday through Easter Sunday in Rome.